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Eliminating PERS for Legislators and Judges Takes Away Conflict of Interest

Monday, November 7, 2011

PERS was created in 1945 to provide retirement benefits to Oregon’s public employees.  Legislators and judges were not eligible to join PERS.  Everyone affected by PERS was fairly represented when PERS laws were made and PERS disputes were decided by neutral judges. That, however, began to change in the 1970’s.  By 1984, the legislators had changed the law so that they could retroactively join PERS and judges automatically became PERS members.  Thereafter, PERS members have made all of the PERS laws and they have decided every PERS lawsuit.  That is the problem with PERS.

Oregon will have $3 billion less to spend in 2011 – 2013 then it had in 2009 – 2011.  But laws passed by PERS legislators guarantee that this shortfall will not reduce the money paid to PERS.  The PERS budget for 2011 – 2013 has been increased by $1.1 billion, to $7.5 billion.  PERS members have also decided that during the 2011 – 2013 biennium the people of Oregon will pay over $870 million to pick up employee PERS contributions for PERS members.  That money could have been used to provide services to all Oregonians but instead it will be used for PERS members only.   This is what happens when PERS members have total control over the PERS decision making process and it is a serious problem.

The solution to the PERS problem is to remove legislators and judges from PERS.  Legislators are the elected representatives of the people, not hired employees, and they should not receive employee benefits.  Judges should have their own independent retirement plan, just like they did prior to 1984.  These changes would restore the fairness that existed when PERS was established in 1945 and they would end decades of financial abuse that has cost the people of Oregon billions of dollars.

Article written by Daniel Re

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