If you pay attention to the debate on the budget in this year’s session, you will hear a lot about funding for our schools, and a lot about the ongoing liabilities in the Public Employee Retirement System, or PERS. The two have become entwined due to the ongoing devastation caused by Wall Street and the economic collapse, which has gutted Oregon’s ability to fund vital services, and has caused the loss of billions of dollars in the retirement system.
As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t view this as kids versus retirees. We’re all in this together, and we have to find our way to positive ground together. Some of my colleagues talk about these issues as if they’re just numbers on a page, not actual kids in schools or real retirees living on fixed incomes. The budget I presented last Monday with my co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, Sen. Richard Devlin, asks all of us, not just retired workers, to face Oregon’s challenges.
We are able to provide significant increases for our schools by asking the Legislature to stretch in our ability to close tax loopholes and our ability to hold the line on costs across the board. We are able to take a step towards stability for PERS by decreasing the yearly cost of living adjustment for higher end pensioners. We can do this together, or we can hold fast to ideology and fail.