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Reynolds: Iowa task force will study IPERS changes

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DAVENPORT -- Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds told a group in Scott County on Thursday a task force will be formed to study the possibility of long-term changes to IPERS, the retirement system for public employees in the state.

However, she said later it was still in the formative stages. And Ben Hammes, a spokesman for Reynolds and Gov. Terry Branstad, said no steps had been taken to set up the group.

Reynolds, who will soon become the state's governor, said in remarks at a Scott County Republican Party fundraiser Thursday that commitments already made to IPERS members would be honored.

"I feel very strongly about that," she said.

However, she also raised the possibility of moving toward a "hybrid" system that would include the current defined benefit pension arrangement as well as a defined contribution component. The latter is akin to a 401(k) system that is common in the private sector.

Reynolds said states have grappled with defined benefit systems and that multiple private sector companies have shifted away from them. She said nothing would happen quickly, and a balance would have to be struck to protect people on IPERS to whom promises have been made. But, she added, there needs to be serious study of the issue.

The IPERS fund, which has a market value of $28.3 billion, has a long-term unfunded liability of nearly $5.6 billion. Its funded ratio of 83.9 percent has held relatively steady since 2009 and is generally considered one of the better funded state systems in the U.S., though the ratio was higher in previous years.

Some conservative groups have called the IPERS-defined benefit system outdated.

Ed Tibbetts is a reporter for the Quad-City Times, like the Globe Gazette a Lee Enterprises newspaper.

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