Oregon’s supreme pigs at the trough

by Dan Lucas

Oregon’s 1996 Supreme Court judges should have recused themselves from the 1996 PERS reform case

Oregon Catalyst regular contributor Larry Huss has been following the lonely crusade of Bend attorney Daniel Re and his David and Goliath struggle to give Oregon taxpayers and voters a voice in PERS decisions.

The current focus of Re’s efforts is the 1996 PERS ruling made by the Oregon Supreme Court, where the court overruled the 1994 PERS reform measure [Measure 8] passed by Oregon voters. As PERS members with an obvious and inherent conflict of interest, the court should have recused itself. The justices didn’t, and Oregon taxpayers have been paying ever since. But the Oregon Supreme Court judges who made the ruling have been doing quite nicely.

The recent decision to make PERS retiree information public lets us see exactly how nicely they’ve been doing.

Additional PERS data to be released in March 2012 may make analysis possible to determine an actual dollar amount that each of the 1996 Oregon Supreme Court justices personally benefited by their ruling on this case.


Control of PERS is in the exclusive hands of PERS members – taxpayers/voters are shut out

In his article yesterday, Larry Huss lays it out very well how all three branches of Oregon’s government have been co-opted by PERS:

  • “The terms and conditions of Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System are determined by the Oregon Legislature. All of the members of the legislature are eligible to be members of PERS and most are.”
  • “The administration of the PERS system falls to the executive branch (governor). The governor and all the members of his administration, including those who directly administer PERS, are beneficiaries of PERS.”
  • “The judiciary, all of whom are eligible to be members of PERS – and most of whom are – determine the constitutionality of attempts to reform PERS. Twice reforms have been adopted – once by initiative and once by the legislature in response to public disclosure of the crushing future liability created by PERS. Twice the Oregon Supreme Court invalidated those reforms.”

Daniel Re’s efforts are to be commended. Success would restore a voice for taxpayers and voters in PERS decisions, and would right a 15-year old wrong.


Additional Resources:

Larry Huss articles on Daniel Re’s crusade

A Lonely Fight to Reform PERS (Dec 2011)

No PERS Member Left Behind (Aug 2011)

PERS Reform Not Likely In A Corrupted System (Aug 2010)

Recent articles by Bend attorney Daniel Re

PERS And Judicial Independencepublished in the December 2011 issue of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin

Update 10: The Fight To Reinstate Ballot Measure 8 (Nov 2011)

My Problem With PERS (Aug 2011)

Dan Re says conflict of interest nullifies Supreme Court ruling on Measure 8published in the Bend Bulletin on May 30, 2011


Note: The data in the table for this article is the data that PERS provided to the Oregonian. A Dec 2012 article by the Oregonian’s Mike Francis revealed that the data provided by PERS to the Oregonian is not always correct. When I get the time to do the follow-up research and discussion with PERS, I will adjust the numbers in the table accordingly.

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Posted by at 08:00 | Posted in PERS, Public Employees Retirement System | 13 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • guest

    Odor in the court,
    The judge is eat’n beans,
    PERSnatchers in the jury box,
    Bloating and winding by all means.  

  • Rupert in Springfield

    If the purpose of having a government is to establish order in a society, it would seem that funding those operations should come before the funding of perks for the membership. Our current budget priorities, with PERS as the first consideration, sets the priority of government as enriching its membership, not providing function. There is something wrong about that.

  • Bob Clark

    I like the Pig picture.  Oregon has a flat economy aided by the corrupt judicial system mostly appointed by Oregon’s past Democrat party governors.  This became a little bit clearer to at least me, after attending last night’s Executive Club meeting.  The highlight of the meeting was the story about the antics of certain Democrat party state senators and governor to use their buddies at the Oregon Supreme court to block a new tourism enterprise in the Metolius River play ground, which the state’s well heeled rulers want to keep under wraps for their exclusive pleasure.

  • Doug

    There is a simple solution to this problem with ELECTED OFFICIALS (at any level of government) being treated as EMPLOYEES OF GOVERNMENT, which technically they are not.  They are elected representatives of the people. As elected officials they should not participate in any benefit program offered to State employees. State employees are not elected they are employed by State government they are not State Government. Elected officials are the “State, City, County or Taxing district Government”.

    As far as the state elected officials are concerned the State Constitution in Article IV, Section 29 states “Compensation of Members.  The members of the Legislatibe Assembly shall receive for their services a salary to be established and paid in the same manner as the salaries of other elected state officers and employees.”  The language is plain – Salaries, not salaries and “Benefits”, ie. pensions, health plans, vacation and sick days. 

    Elected officials are not employess of government they are the government as as representatives of the people they are not entitled to benefit packages.  No one who is elected to office should be elegible for a pension simply because he/she is re-elected more than once.  If someone desires to be a career elected official it is up to that person to provide for their own retirement and “benefits”.  The general assumption in a representative form of government is that the elected positions will be held by a variety of citizens over time. In essence they are the ultimate part time job which only lasts for the constitutional term of office.

    If the language in the constitution is not plain enough for the current Supreme Court to understand then they need to recuse themselves from any challenge that they have a personal interest in.

    The best solution is to pass a constitutional amendment in Oregon that specifically excludes all elected officials in the State at any level of government from participating in anything but a stipend or salary for their service.  Every term of office filled by an incumbent is no different than the first term. Each is limited, consecutive election to one office is not cumulative. There is no “tenure” in being elected to public office.

  • Ardbeg

    This isn’t a post in defense of PERS as there are too many things about PERS that are indefensible,  But………just to bring some facts to the monthly (at least on this site) discussion around PERS.  First, the average monthly take for a PERS member is less than 25k.  As much as Mike Bellotti and these judges makes me want to puke, I don’t begrudge the police, firemen and teachers taking home an average of 25k for 20-30 years of service.  Highlighting the outliers is bad math!  There are over 100k Oregonians collecting PERS and less than 1000 take home the big bucks (100k or more).  That’s less than one percent.  Take the outliers out and the monthly average would drop significantly.  My question is how much does PERS cost me?  I’m just about to the point of calling PERS to ask that question as I can’t find that info anywhere.  If I make 100k a year?  What percent of my taxes go the PERS?  Anyone know?

    • 3H

      That’s probably an extremely hard question to answer.  Money going into PERS doesn’t necessarily come from income tax.   Local governmental bodies that pay into PERS for their employees generally get the bulk of their income from property taxes, not income taxes.  

      According to this blog, approximately 25% of PERS comes from general fund sources.   It’s not an official site, and the person writing it is pro-PERS, so make of it what you will.  However, it is a nice counter-balance to the anti-PERS rhetoric on this site.


      • Ardbeg

        Official PERS report states 20%.  Return on investment and employee contribution the other 80%

        • 3H

          Hmmm.. whent hey say employee contribution, do they mean employee and employer contribution?   If I work, say for DMV.  DMV contributes 6 %, that is still coming from general fund monies.  Not directly, but indirectly. 

          The 6% pick-up for employees (and not all governmental employers pick up the 6%) is part of a compensation package.  For better or worse, that is the employee’s money, so I’m not sure I would consider that tax-payer moey.  Except, of course, that DMV is tax-payer funded.  And many would argue that if DMV (or any government agency) wasn’t picking up the 6% they would have a smaller budget.

          Of course there are some this site who leave the impression that no matter how much you paid public employees — they are still overpaid.  And you could save a lot of money if you just paid them all minimum wage.  Not much you can do about them.

          • Ardbeg

            For some people it’s easier to tear down than build up.  After I learned the average worker takes home 25k a year for retirement I was amazed.  You read so many different things about PERS I thought state workers were taking home a much bigger number.

  • Steve Henry

    Who then decides the case if the Supreme Court doesn’t?  Are YOU going to decide?  I think that PERS could significantly be improved if we put a limit on it.  I think people like the chief justice deserve a top rung pension not exceeding 125k.  I don’t have a problem with doctors at OHSU getting up to 200k if they were in a significant position, so long as there is only a few of them.  I do have a significant problem with how college coaches get huge payouts.  There should be a base terminal salary for coaches at universities not exceeding 80k, and if the school wants to pay them more, let them use their endowments and revenues from football (which pays for many of the other programs).

    • Doug

      The United States Supreme Court or a special court of Oregon Judges not subject to PERS.

      My argument is that ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE NOT EMPLOYEES AND SHOULD NOT RECEIVE THE BENEFITS THAT THEY PROSCRIBE FOR EMPLOYEES, nor should they be involved in the contract process with unions, when they will also benefit from the concessions they make from the process.  Removing them from all consideration as employees of the State would solve those ongoing “conflicts of self-interest”!

      How can any elected official be “representing the interest of the citizens of the State of Oregon, in any negotiation where that official benefits (via benefits or anything else) in the outcome of those negotiations.  If you can explain how that can be the case I am willing to listen.

      By the way Oregon Supreme Court judges ARE NOT APPOINTED FOR LIFE, they are elected for a limited term. Each term is discrete from the other and the fact that an elected official is re-elected should not be a consideration for anything.  Incumbancy should not be considered a “right of title or nobility” as prohibited in the United States Constitution.

  • Fred Starkey

    The following comments show complete ignorance of PERS.  I will have a web site soon with the corrrect information.  For now, go to:

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