Bipartisan group files two initiatives to protect PERS pensions and public services

By PERS Solutions

SALEM—Two ballot initiative petitions addressing the rising costs of Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) pension program were filed today with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

Chief petitioners for the initiatives are Ted Kulongoski, former Oregon Governor (2003-2011) and Chris Telfer, former State Senator and current Oregon Lottery Commissioner.

“I believe the unsustainability of the Public Employees Retirement System is a critical issue and the time to change it is now,” Kulongoski said. “I and other colleagues are offering necessary and responsible changes to PERS, and our proposals are fair to the taxpayers and to the PERS beneficiaries.”

One initiative establishes an optional 401(k)-style Individual Retirement Savings Plan for new hires as an alternative to the traditional PERS pension plan. For current employees, it maintains all earned benefits, and transitions their current 6% of salary contribution from their separate Individual Account Program to their pensions, protecting their pensions and lowering their employers’ PERS costs.

The second initiative protects pension benefits for covered workers and requires employees enrolled in the pension to contribute one-third of the going-forward cost of future benefits earned.

“PERS costs are climbing for the state, schools and local governments,” Telfer said, “but taxpayers are paying the bill. In 2010, PERS pensions cost each Oregon household about $600 a year. They’re now more than twice that – $1,500 a year. By 2022, the yearly cost will exceed $2,200 a year, and keep climbing.”

In order to qualify for the November 2020 election ballot, initiatives sponsors would need to collect 112,020 signatures from Oregon voters by July 2, 2020.

A summary of the proposals can be found here.