Democratic leaders made progress on PERS

Peter Buckley

Rep. Peter Buckley

Wow. I’m not sure who wrote the Mail Tribune editorial on Thursday, taking a shot at Speaker Tina Kotek and blaming her for the lack of progress on a deal for revenue and additional PERS reform, but they couldn’t have been farther off the mark.

I’m a senior member of House leadership, having served in leadership since August 2005. As House Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means, I work in daily partnership with Speaker Kotek.

Kotek and I came into this session with one main priority — to turn around education funding, to stop the layoffs of teachers and the unacceptable growth of class sizes in our schools. With the support of our colleagues, we’re getting that done. Most every district in the state, including Ashland, Phoenix-Talent and Medford, are adding back personnel and school days.  Some districts are still hurting, though, so we’ve been consistently open to compromises that might result in additional funding for K-12, as well as to reach a goal of freezing tuition for our community colleges and universities.

PERS is a central part of mix. We’ve presented and passed reductions for $455 million, and agreed with the governor’s proposal in May to reach for several hundred million more. Our criteria has been that we have to protect low-pension retirees, make sure reforms are legal, and result in real savings.  No one in the 2013 legislature has achieved more on PERS or education funding, and we’re still at the table, ready to do more.

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