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Jessica MachettaDecember 6, 20176min3459
State Treasurer Walker Stapleton said Wednesday that Colorado’s public pensions are in deep trouble unless elected officials get unfunded liabilities under control. “Taxpayers have done their part already, and that no more taxpayer money should be used to bail out PERA,” Stapleton told reporters on a conference call. Stapleton is running for governor. He said […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 23, 20174min444

Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has yet to officially step into the Colorado governor’s race, but he reliably draws flak from those already running — particularly fellow Republicans, of course — who see him as a force to be reckoned with.

They eye him warily not just because of his vaunted Bush family ties or the money he’ll presumably be able to tap whenever he does declare his candidacy. It’s also because in a sense he has been running all along. Just not as a candidate for governor.

Stapleton has been running as the non-candidate trying to head off Canadian-style single-payer health coverage on last fall’s ballot; as the non-candidate pushing for term limits on Congress, and of course most prominently as the non-candidate warning of the impending implosion of Colorado’s state employee retirement system. Though as state treasurer he sits on the board of the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association in an ex officio capacity, he is also the fund’s most vocal critic, warning regularly of how it is heading for a day of reckoning with its unfunded liabilities,

Which is why declared Republican gubernatorial hopeful Victor Mitchell, the Douglas County entrepreneur who served a term in the state house, decided to take a swing at Stapleton over his signature issue the other day, as recounted by blogger and pundit Jason Salzman in blog post on ColoradoPols:

“You know, one of my opponents claims [PERA is] a major crisis. I don’t believe it’s a major crisis,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told Jimmy Lakey, who’s the morning host on KCOL 690-AM Friday.

“I don’t believe we should be politicizing it,” Mitchell continued. “Certainly, it has been a broken system from a standpoint that the benefits are too generous and the incentives are perverse. But I don’t believe it’s in a state of crisis.”

Note Mitchell refers to Stapleton as “one of my opponents” without regard to the fact that the treasurer technically isn’t running for anything at the moment.

Poking PERA in the nose has become standard fare in Republican circles, certainly in the legislature, where GOP lawmakers ritually run bills to address some aspect of PERA’s solvency. Given split control of the two legislative chambers, the bills are more public statement than viable legislation.

So, to see Mitchell downplay that orthodoxy — and to suggest a prominent fellow Republican is “politicizing” the issue — is worth noting. Maybe it plays to Mitchell’s image as an outsider businessman unafraid to challenge his own party.

Read Salzman’s full blog post on Pols; here’s the link again.