One of my top priorities entering this session was the reform of Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) in a balanced way. Rapidly increasing costs for the retirement program is costing our local schools and governments millions every year. Presently, there is a $14 billion unfunded liability in the system even with the stock market is at an all-time high.
With teacher layoffs, growing class sizes, and fewer police officers, Oregonians are sacrificing every day because of PERS obligations.
There is a broad group of Oregonians supporting comprehensive PERS reform, from our school boards to local governments, from education activists to newspaper editorial boards. The Oregon Business Plan, which Gov. Kitzhaber has pointed to as his roadmap this session, makes fixing PERS a top priority. The governor, too, called for PERS reform in his State of the State address early this year.
Unfortunately, Democrats entered the session without PERS reform as a priority. It’s obvious from their proposal which they developed in secret and unveiled this week. The Oregonian editorial board called it, “about as bold as khaki pants.” And the Eugene Register-Guard editorial board said, “The strategy is a disappointment; the times call for a bolder approach.”
I encourage the controlling political party to work with Oregon’s school boards, local governments, and education activists on real reform. We need to fix PERS this session and not put it off any longer. Our schools and children deserve it.