Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper said Tuesday Colorado could tap part of the $33 billion state retirement fund for loans to small businesses, providing up to $150 million a year to help stabilize its economy.

Hickenlooper told workers at a prescription data center the state should use its assets for loans. He said the state could raise $100 million from investors and securitize about $50 million from the Public Employees Retirement Association to provide the loans.

“We would only use a small part of state retirement funds. It would have to be run like a business. This would provide access to capital they can’t get now,” Hickenlooper said.

Later Tuesday, at a debate sponsored by The Pueblo Chieftain, American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo said the state should cut funding for PERA. Tancredo and GOP candidate Dan Maes said they don’t believe Hickenlooper’s plan will work because of PERA’s unfunded liabilities.

Accountants said in August the plan had net income of $5.2 billion last year after losing $11 billion the year before. The state cut retiree benefits to fix the problem over the next 30 years.

Maes has proposed using gaming funds or state lottery funds to provide loans.

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Tancredo said the state will be forced to cut funding for PERA to cover an estimated $1.1 billion shortfall in state revenues next year. This year’s budget was $18.2 billion, and Tancredo said next year will see the first actual decline in state spending in 20 years instead of a cut in growth.

“We’re going to have to go after PERA, and we’re going to have to go after Medicaid,” Tancredo said.

Maes was counting on support from tea party activists in southern Colorado, but some activists are divided.

Becky Mizel, a Southern Colorado Tea Party board member, said Tuesday she was forced to take a leave from the board after she decided to campaign for Tancredo, saying Maes has been inconsistent in his stories about being a successful businessman and being an economic conservative. Maes says he never claimed to be a millionaire and says his experience in telecommunications and credit services will help the state.

Jerry Denney, also a board member, says he continues to back Maes even though Maes has waffled on three tax-limit measures on the November ballot.

“Those issues aren’t relevant to being governor,” he said.


  1. Use retirement funds from an already underfunded pension system to prop up high risk small business during an epic recession. Gee, what could possibly go wrong?

  2. Uh, er, isn’t PERA supposed to be for state retirees? Should Hickey Baby really be tapping into a fund to use the money for something it wasn’t intended for? Call me irresponsible, call me uncaring but I’m confused.

  3. “Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper says the state could tap part of the $33 billion state retirement fund for loans to small businesses”

    Is this guy serious? The banks are sitting on plenty of money they could loan out.

    The money is owed to present and future retirees. The politicians should take their boots off everybody’s throats.

  4. Governor Hickenlooper,

    Don’t make the same mistake as the Ritter Administration. Put people on your staff who know DB pension case law and understand that these are not “state assets”, the PERA assets are trust funds owned by pension benficiaries. Members of the PERA Board have a fiduciary duty to earn the highest return possible for the beneficiaries. Placing the PERA assets in the investments that you propose (small business loans) may not be the best means of investing these funds. Know that case law exists in the states on even this question of interference with the investment objectives of pension fudciaries.

    Tancredo, for your information (not that it matters in terms of potential policy) reducing pension contributions in the present will ultimately cost taxpayers more due to lost investment opportunities. Take a look at the pension reform that occurred in Utah this year. Note that Utah acheived pension reform that was prospective, and accordingly legal, and that was also quite comprehensive. I have a summary of the Utah reform posted on By acting blindly, with no legal analysis or due dilligence Ritter/Penry/Shaffer have delayed true and legal pension reform in Colorado by several years. Remember that we all have to act surprised when SB1 is declared unconstitutional. I certainly expect PERA adiministrators to feign surprise.

  5. Mayor Hickenlooper,

    With statements like this about taking money from PERA, which is already financially strapped, you are making it very difficult for me to vote for you. I thought you were a man of reason, but now I’m not so sure.

    Are you really serious about this? The next thing you know, I bet you will want to raid higher education funds too, since Colorado is so flush in that area too.

    If you are going to be governor, please think about what you say before you put your foot in your mouth.

  6. These are our choices, Hickenlooper who wants to raid PERA (money contributed for retirement, by the retirees themselves) to loan to businesses, and Tancredo, who wants to further stifle education by further cutting PERA , making teaching in Colorado even less attractive than it currently is.

    The State is now being sued for breach of contract due to the retro-active “take-away” of benefits from those already retired and fully vested…..outrageous. Potential businesses TAKE NOTE….doing business in Colorado is very risky if the terms of contracts can be unilaterally changed by the legislature……

    Business loans from a state like Colorado, which has no respect for contracts with it’s most dedicated public servants ??? What business will want to locate here if the State can unilaterally break contracts ? Can the interest rate on your Hickenlooper loan even be guaranteed ? (Not if there is a downturn in the market and the state can say there is an actuarial necessity!)

    I think I’d take my business elsewhere to a State that has not declared economic war on it’s retired servants, and on the sanctity of contract law.

  7. Taking our money that we earned and payed into a fund to live on in our retirements sounds like theft. What are we suppose to live on, welfare? The political jerks need to quit living so high on the hog and live within their means and leave us alone while we can still pay our utilities and buy food. If they want more money for the state then let them pay it out of their millions that they have.

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