To the editor:
As the mayor of Fort Dodge, I have dedicated my tenure to improve our local economy. For that reason, I am concerned about possible future changes to a key Fort Dodge economic driver, the Iowa Public Employee Retirement System (IPERS).
In Webster County, IPERS provided over $20 million in retiree benefits last year. Because much of those retiree benefits are spent here in Fort Dodge, an added $20 million to Fort Dodge area provides a huge boost to our local businesses. A reduction in those benefits will only result in less money being spent in downtown Fort Dodge. I would not support any changes that negatively affect our local economy in this way.
IPERS is also critical to our public workforce. IPERS has shown to be a very well-run, flexible system while providing sound retirement for our teachers, police officers, firefighters, snow plow drivers, and all other public workers. I am proud of the fact we offer one of the best public retirement systems in the country. Because IPERS is such a good system, communities like Fort Dodge are able to attract and retain a quality workforce.
While we did not see a law passed changing IPERS this year, there were some troubling signs changes are on the horizon. One particularly worrying change is a new hire hybrid system. Elected officials have floated the idea of moving to such a system and there was a bill, Senate File 45, which would have put it in place. Not only would this system hurt our local economy, it is also just bad fiscal policy. When actuaries looked at what the plan would do, they estimated it would increase the IPERS shortfall to between $14 and $20 billion. Public employees and taxpayers deserve better.
Something as vital to the retirement security and economic impact of Fort Dodge should not be a political issue. Unfortunately, plans like Senate File 45 seem to be political solutions in search of a problem. Instead of politics as usual, we should commit to maintaining what works. That is why I support IPERS – because it works for Fort Dodge.