City Club of Central Oregon – February 2018

City Club of Central Oregon February forum: PERS SNATCHERS

Is Oregon’s Pension Promise Broken? Can it be fixed?

Oregon has sought to attract and retain the best and brightest public employees by promising fixed rates of return on pensions within the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS).  Oregon originally failed, however, to adequately fund those promises.  Accordingly, the Legislature reduced pensions in 2003.  But when the stock market crashed, public employers still had to make up the difference. This situation begs the following questions:

  • Is PERS broken?  If so, can it be fixed without breaking promises to employees?
  • How is PERS impacting other programs?
  • If pensions are reduced or privatized, will Oregon need to increase wages to attract and retain quality employees?
  • What are the alternatives to the current system?
  • What legal, economic, and political obstacles exist to those alternatives?
  • Who gets to decide, and how do we hold them accountable?
  • Should Oregon retire its public retirement program, as we know it?