The state treasurer manages a pool of investments worth about $6 billion. A public employee retirement plan, known as the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, or PERA, is a small chunk of this pie. But this defined-benefit pension, which serves 585,000 public employees, currently has a $32.2 billion unfunded liability, which means PERA may struggle to pay out benefits to retirees if there is another economic downturn. Many candidates are using this risk of insolvency as a key issue in their platform. The state treasurer serves as a member on PERA’s 16-member Board of Trustees.
Bernard Douthit, who runs a math tutoring business in Denver, says the state should streamline the tax filing process for businesses and set up a public bank, among other policy proposals, according to his website.
Charles Quin Scheibe, Colorado’s chief financial officer since 2007, supports PERA reform and wants a “dreadfully cautious” investment portfolio, and according to his website.
Rep. Dave Young, R-Greeley, is chair of the House Appropriations Committee and a member of the Joint Budget Committee. According to his website, during the 2017 legislative session, his bills focused on reforming Medicaid and long-term services and supports for seniors and people living with disabilities.
Steve Lebsock, a former representative from Thornton who was expelled in early March from the House of Representatives over allegations of sexual harassment, focused much of his attention this year on bills concerning fiscal policy. His campaign website was recently taken down and his phone number listed with the Secretary of State is no longer in service. About an hour before the expulsion vote, Lebsock switched his party affiliation to Republican. It is not yet clear whether that switch disqualifies him from the treasurer’s race.
Brian Watson is the founder, chairman and CEO of a commercial real estate investment organization, Northstar Commercial Partners. His website does not outline any policy positions. On PERA reform, he told The Denver Post late last year that Colorado “must manage these assets better,” but did not elaborate.
Rep. Polly Lawrence, R- Roxborough Park, is a member of the House Finance Committee. Her family owns Lawrence Construction, a heavy civil construction firm. “I’ve fought to roll back burdensome regulations, championed a transparent and less intrusive government, supported needed resources to our rural communities, and advocated for accountability and transparency in ALL levels of government,” her website states.
Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, serves on the House Appropriations Committee. He previously ran a small business that specialized in business start-up, growth and investment management, and financial management. “I will continue to be a fiscally conservative steward of your taxpayer dollars and Colorado’s finances,” his website states.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I have pushed for a rainy-day fund, fought to keep the integrity of the Tax Payers Bill of Rights, argued for Medicaid reform, introduced alternatives to our crippling education costs, stood up to protect traditional marriage and the lives of the unborn, and daily fought the insidious growth and power of government,” his website states.
Brett Barkey is a district attorney in Colorado’s 14th Judicial District, which includes Moffat, Routt and Grand counties. He worked as senior counsel at the U.S. Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C. He is Marine Veteran and served three tours in Iraq. He says he wants to “safeguard the state’s funds” and wants to reform PERA, including shifting to a defined-contribution plan, like a 401-K, for new hires, according to his website.
Brita Horn, a Routt County Treasurer, is a self-described ranch wife and mother. She is also a first responder and the fire chief for the Rock Creek Volunteer Fire Department. She wants to reform PERA and reduce government waste, according to her website.
About an hour before the expulsion vote, Lebsock switched his party affiliation to Republican. It is unclear whether he is still in the race for state treasurer.