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Republicans have no plans to change the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, including reductions in benefits from the system that handles the pension plan for 350,000 state employees, the incoming chair of the House State Government Committee said Wednesday night.
“IPERS is not going to be touched. It’s the most solvent retirement system in the country,” state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said at a legislative forum in Iowa City co-hosted by IowaWatch and The Daily Iowan, referring to the program by its better-known acronym.
Democrats have raised concerns that changes could be in the offing, especially after state Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, introduced a bill two years ago to place public employees hired after July 1, 2019, in a program requiring increased personal contributions. The bill failed to gain traction.
IPERS, the state’s largest pension program, had a Trust Fund balance of $32.26 billion on June 30, IPERS documents show. Investment earnings cover about 70 percent of the benefits paid to retired state employees, the documents show. About 117,000 plan members are retired.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has said she would not favor cutting IPERS benefits. As chair of the State Government Committee next session, Kaufmann will have a lot of say in what legislation advances.
“What I said is concrete, absoluteness,” he said at the forum. “The thought that there ever was a big movement is fabricated. And I will stand behind that unequivocally.”
Kaufmann said he has spoken to all 53 members of the incoming House Republican caucus about IPERS. “Zero. Not one, not two, not five. Zero, zilch, nada, none have any appetite for this whatsoever,” he said about making changes.
“As the son of the chair of the Republican Party, the chair of the State Government Committee, and as one of the more connected Republicans in this state, I have heard zero people talk ever about it ever talk about it, period, ever in private. It just doesn’t happen.”
Kaufmann’s father is state GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann.
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A radio version of this IowaWatch story was broadcast on KXEL and KFMH (Waterloo, IA); KFJB (Marshalltown, IA) and KMA (Shenandoah, IA) under IowaWatch’s mission of sharing stories with media partners.