by Rep. Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg)
Many of you have followed the events leading up to the “one-day” Special Session of the Legislature with great interest. Because so many of you have written my office regarding the various issues under consideration, I wanted to report back to you what actually happened. Following is a hyperlinked list of the bills that were considered during the Special Session.
SB 861 Modifies COLA for PERS recipients
SB 862 Excludes employer health benefit payments from calculation of final salary for PERS benefits
SB 863 Places seed regulation authority with the State
HB 3601 Increases corporate tax rate on on revenues between $1 million and $10 million
HB 5101 Allocates money to schools and mental health services
After two days of behind-closed-doors negotiations and vote counting, the House finally convened to consider HB 3601 last week on Wednesday morning. Though this bill has been described as a tax cut, I took a close look at the bottom line. Under this bill, the State will raise $409 million in revenue over the next 5 biennia; the majority of which will be raised out of the pocketbooks of senior citizens. In addition to raising that $409 million dollars, this bill authorizes a raid of the Rainy Day fund.
I spoke against this bill and pointed out how these projections play out, which you can see in the clip of my floor speech below. Because it actually represents a tax increase, this bill required a three-fifths majority to pass. That’s 36 votes in the House. After an initial vote of 33 yes to 22 against, three members changed their votes so the bill would pass. The final vote was 36 in favor and 19 against. HB 5101 was also considered and passed out of the House during the Wednesday morning session.
The House reconvened in the afternoon to consider the remaining bills, which were all voted through. In addition to opposing HB 3601, I also opposed SB 861. SB 861 reduces the COLA for PERS beneficiaries and disproportionately puts the burden on those who are already retired. I continue to be deeply concerned at the approximately $11 billion unfunded actuarial liability that PERS still faces. As an employer who works hard to fully fund the retirement plan for my employees, I was horrified when I first learned that PERS had allowed such a large unfunded liability to accumulate.
It’s my view that there are better ways to put PERS back on a path of sustainability than the COLA legislation that I opposed yesterday. The conversation we touched on during this special session should have happened during the long 2013 session that just recently concluded. In fact, I introduced a suite of four bills during the 2013 session, all addressing a different aspect of PERS reform (HB 3056, HB 3057, HB 3058 and HB 3059). I spent years working with PERS beneficiaries at every stage of work and retirement to develop a common-sense policy approach to reform that would not unduly burden those who are already retired. However, the Speaker refused to allow even one of my bills the courtesy of consideration.
All of the legislation considered during the special session passed out of both chambers; and the Governor has indicated that he will sign all of the legislation into law.
Thank you to those of you who took the time to weigh in on these issues in advance of and during the special session. Your thoughtful emails and letters informed my thinking and my votes.