(PORTLAND)—A new effort to stem the growing drain on schools, essential services, higher education and public safety from the rising costs of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) was unveiled today with the launch of a new informational website, PERSsolutions.org.
A bipartisan group of public service advocates who have come together under the banner of PERS Solutions for Public Services is proposing cost-sharing and debt-reducing reforms to the state’s pension system that will ensure competitive retirement benefits and working conditions for public workers while preserving and enhancing vital public services.
The website includes background on Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) and outlines seven sensible reforms to address the urgent challenge of addressing the pension system’s $26.6 billion debt.
“The rising cost of the PERS retirement program means that all Oregonians, young and old alike, will pay a heavy price in terms of the quality of our individual lives and the ability of our government to provide essential services for all of our citizens. There must be a bipartisan effort to find solutions to the PERS problem that are fair for taxpayers and public employees alike,” explained former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, a key supporter of the effort.
PERS payroll rates paid by public agencies (and their taxpayers) have grown from 12 percent of payroll in 2013-15 to what will become 25 percent of payroll in July and is likely to surpass 30 percent of payroll in 2021-23. PERS increases over that period will amount to $4 billion.
“Young people who have successfully navigated challenges to become graduates of our fine public universities deserve to start their futures without crushing student debt, and to live as citizens of communities that are vibrant and provide the very best public services we can afford to offer,” said Cec Koontz, Monmouth Mayor and Board Member of Western Oregon University. “We have a PERS problem. We need solutions that are fair and responsible – and we can’t wait.”
Kelly Bissinger, vice-chair of the InterMountain ESD School Board said, “As a veteran school board chairman, I’ve personally witnessed the strain on school budgets due to escalating PERS costs. We need to find a way to honor previous commitments to our hard-working employees yet find a way to make sound financial changes moving forward.”