New study: Oregon PERS among 9 worst

NW Spotlight_thb

by NW Spotlight

A study released on September 3, 2013, by the non-profit organization State Budget Solutions, rates Oregon among the nine worst states for the health of their public pension plans.

“By combining the rankings of per capita unfunded liabilities and unfunded liabilities as a percentage of annual gross state product, it is possible to identify which states stand out on both scales. Nine states are present in the top ten of both lists, showing large unfunded liabilities compared to their populations and economic output. Those states are Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Oregon, Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska.”

The study is titled Promises Made, Promises Broken — The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers.

Oregon ranked the 8th worst in Per Capita Unfunded Liability ($19,266 for every Oregonian) and the 6th worst in Unfunded Liability as a percentage (38%) of the state’s annual total economic output, or Gross State Product (GSP). Oregon is tied overall as the 5th worst state along with Hawaii and Connecticut.

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The study used a fair-market valuation of states’ pension system’s liabilities, which they feel provides a more accurate accounting. According to the study, current public sector practices can be used to make liabilities appear smaller, in order to reduce the amount “required today to pay for the promises of tomorrow.”

Using the fair-market valuation, the study shows Oregon’s PERS unfunded liability at $75 billion.

That is much higher than PERS itself rates its unfunded liability. Oregon PERS estimates its unfunded actuarial liability at $14 billion (without side accounts).

Recent news articles on the PERS unfunded liability also use the $14 billion figure.

Updated 9/23