The Oregon Senate Republican office issued the following news release today after a bill moved out of committee Friday morning that will affect retired state worker pensions. Republicans say the action will do little to help the state budget terming the bill "Anemic PERS Lite".
"Legislative Democrats shoved a deficient Public Employee Retirement System reformbill out of the budget committee Friday morning on a strictly partisan vote. Republicans said the billleaves schools underfunded and local governments bearing the brunt of a grossly underfundedretirement system."We can do better, we have to do better," said Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day)."A broad coalition of Oregon's governments, schools, editorial boards and citizens believe that weneed bold PERS reform, and this falls short. This legislature has an opportunity to do somethingcollaborative and visionary for PERS. Thisis more symbol than substance."Senate Bill 822, the bill Democrats forced from the Ways and Means Committee Friday morning, hasbecome known as the "PERS Lite" bill because of the weak set of reforms it implements. Senate Bill822 only reduces the $14 billion deficit in the PERS system by saves 1/30th. Schools and localgovernments have forced more than $2 billion in rate increases.What's more, Senate Bill 822 moves more than $350 million in PERS payments from this budgetcycle to the next. The bill effectively borrows money which will need to be repaid with interest.Republicans don't believe going into more debt helps fix a retirement system already underwater."There is a better way," said Senator Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River). "Republicans stand ready towork with Democrats on a cooperative solution to the PERS problem, something that could providereal savings and long-term fixes to this fiscal crisis."Senate Republicans have proposed a menu of proposals that could achieve close to $2 billion insavings. Republicans believe any budget or revenue discussions are premature until there has beensignificant PERS reforms enacted."
A Democratic plan to curb retirement benefits for government workers could reach Gov. John Kitzhaber's desk by the end of next week.
Kitzhaber's office says the governor will sign it.
House Speaker Tina Kotek says she's not willing to cut deeper. That's setting up a showdown over the next major piece of the Democratic budget proposal — $275 million in new tax revenue.
Raising revenue would require Republican votes, but Senate Republicans say they'll only give their support for tax increases if Democrats allow deeper pension cuts.
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