Is TriMet Better Off Than Greece?

CascadeNewLogoBy John A. Charles, Jr.

Syndicated financial writer Malcolm Berko recently advised a small investor to stay away from Greek bonds or securities. He wrote, “Greece has morphed into a bureaucratic five-star welfare state; but in reality, Greece is a one-star economy. The pensions and entitlements consume 52 percent of government income.”

Well, TriMet’s most recent audited financial statement was released in September, and last year TriMet’s “income” – money earned from customers buying rides, advertising, or services – totaled $153.4 million. The cost of fringe benefits such as pensions and health insurance equaled $166.8 million, or 109% of income.

But the actual problem at TriMet is far worse, because most of the obligations for pensions and other benefits don’t show up as current-year expenses. They appear in financial statements as accrued liabilities that have to be paid off sometime in the future.

Taking into account all liabilities for fringe benefits, TriMet has $711 million in health care obligations, $18 million in pension liabilities for management, and $159 million in pension costs for the union. This sums to $888 million in actuarial accrued unfunded liabilities, or 579% of operating income.

Greece is an international financial disaster; but compared with TriMet, it’s a model of fiscal restraint.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Local Taxes, Oregon Government, Portland, Portland Politics, Public Transportation, State Government, State Taxes, Taxes, Transparency, TriMet, Unions | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    The payroll tax and capital borrowings for light rail/and other construction is what actually keeps TriMet going. If businesses tire of further increases in the payroll tax, then TriMet’s financial reckoning will actually be sped.

    If TriMet tried actually charging for its full costs at the Farebox it’s ridership would crater, especially with the advancement of such alternatives as Uber, electric bicycles, high efficiency automobiles, and potentially driver-less vehicles.

    • Preponderant Applause

      Sped or spayed.
      In any event, great assessment, Bob Keep up the good counter clause.

  • thevillageidiot

    to bad this was not compared to this states financial status as a comparison. although the state of Oregon has not yet declared bankruptcy as Greece. but it would be an interesting comparison. as a matter of zeros the US is in nearly the same state. in all cases more is owed than can be paid back. Trimet’s “income” – money earned from customers buying rides, advertising, or
    services – totaled $153.4 million. The cost of fringe benefits such as
    pensions and health insurance equaled $166.8 million, or 109% of income.” or put another way the taxpayers pay the entire operating cost of trimet.

    • Francis Scott Seethes

      Trimet and Metro: Can such regional governmentium resound any Black Hole-ier?

  • theresamitchell

    Get your facts straight.

    • Mr. Kleen the Drain Entirely

      Greece trap or grease trap, at what point does it matter of facility? Both are down the drain smelling like Some Housing Incumbnet Toiletry.

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