One Day After Chet “What, Me Worry?” Culver Says State Retirement Fund is OK, Gronstal Says Lawmakers Will Act

DES MOINES – Iowa Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal’s statement Wednesday that lawmakers will take action to shore up the ailing finances of the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System underscores anew Gov. Chet Culver’s failure to understand the gravity of challenges facing the state and his inability to provide effective leadership, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats said today.

Responding to a report from an actuarial consultant that IPERS is “in a deep hole” and could require more taxpayer money and sacrifices from the system’s members to ensure its long-term stability, Culver said Tuesday there is “no need for alarm.”

Once again, Culver revealed his only plan is to passively hope things get better as he told reporters, “I doubt that we’ll have to do anything next session other than hope we continue to have economic recovery and that certainly, long-term is going to do the best in terms of our IPERS investments.”

Gronstal and his legislative colleagues obviously disagreed with Culver’s do-nothing approach, saying they will step in to ease the system’s long-term problems, which the consultant said are “highly unlikely” to be resolved by a stock market rebound.

“I don’t know how many times I have to say it until Chet Culver gets the message but hope is not a leadership strategy,” Vander Plaats said in a prepared release. “This latest episode is just more evidence that Chet Culver doesn’t know what’s important or even what’s going on around him. He has poor leadership instincts. He’s like Alfred E. Neuman, the little character from Mad magazine who’s perpetually saying, ‘What, me worry?’ Maybe Chet Culver is not worried but the people who are relying on IPERS for their retirement and the people who are funding it sure are concerned. Chet Culver is part of the problem when more than ever we need a governor who is part of the solution.”

Noting that effective communication is a critical component of effective leadership, the Sioux City businessman added, “It’s no secret that Mike Gronstal and I have our honest differences on some issues but I have no doubt I’ll communicate with him more effectively than Governor Culver has on issues that greatly affect the state’s finances and the future of so many Iowans.”

Vander Plaats applauded Gronstal’s intention to take action in the legislative session that begins in January to address the problems facing the fund that has 312,000 members who are current, former or retired employees of schools, cities, counties and state government. While not announcing specific changes on Wednesday, Gronstal said legislative action is “exceedingly unlikely” to affect IPERS members in the midst of the retirement process but could result in some changes for those who are 15 years from drawing benefits.

“Frankly, that’s the sort of work that Congress should be doing right now to fix Social Security’s long-term problems,” Vander Plaats said. “I’d urge Senate Majority Leader Gronstal to include his Republican colleagues in the process of reforming IPERS but I commend him for taking steps in the right direction and I wonder what it’s going to take to wake up Chet Culver to the real world around him and his responsibilities.”
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