Sen. Tim Knopp and Sen. Betsy Johnson
Salem, Ore. – Recognizing that significant Oregon challenges require strong bipartisan teamwork and solutions, Senator Betsy Johnson (D – Scappoose) and Senator Tim Knopp (R – Bend) invite interested Oregonians to participate in a Bipartisan PERS Solutions Work Group to study and make recommendations to address the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) funding crisis. Currently, state and local governments face an $885 million increase in PERS costs starting July 1, 2017. Editorial boards across the state have called for leadership to address this issue.
“PERS cost increases in 2017 could result in fewer teachers and school days, larger class sizes, and the inability to fully fund other critical government services in 2017,” said Senator Knopp. “We must adopt fair, constitutional PERS solutions during the 2017 session that reduce costs and strengthen our K-12 education system.”
“Oregon needs bipartisan PERS solutions that are legal, fair, and protect our schools,” said Senator Johnson. “A public work group will allow a thorough vetting of all proposals informed by advocates from diverse perspectives.”
The new Bipartisan PERS Solutions Work Group will hold public hearings and craft a comprehensive PERS solutions package that is bipartisan, fair, constitutional, and that protects government services. Representatives from schools, local governments, public employee unions, businesses, and other concerned Oregonians will be invited to serve as members. The work group will hold its first meeting during September legislative days to hear from experts on PERS’ unfunded liabilities, impacts of upcoming PERS cost increases, savings options that reduce unfairness in the PERS system, constitutional guidelines, and take input from local governments and PERS members.
The Oregon Supreme Court has made clear that it is unconstitutional to take away accrued benefits, but prospective PERS changes are legal. As such, Senators Johnson and Knopp noted, “In compliance with the Oregon Supreme Court’s constitutional interpretation, no PERS solutions can affect retired PERS members, and all PERS changes must be prospective.”
“If you have an opinion on PERS, we want to hear from you,” said Senators Johnson and Knopp. “The Bipartisan PERS Solutions Work Group continues Oregon’s long tradition of transparent, bipartisan teamwork on big problems facing our state. Please join us.”
The first meeting of the Bipartisan PERS Solutions Work Group will be September 21 from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM at the Oregon State Capitol Building in Hearing Room 174. At the first meeting, the work group will hear presentations about how the PERS system works, its current financial situation, upcoming rate increases, and Oregon laws governing the PERS system. Any interested Oregonian is welcome to attend.
Bipartisan PERS Solutions Work Group First Meeting
September 21, 3-5 p.m.
Hearing Room 174
Oregon State Capitol Building
900 Court St. NE
Salem, OR 97301