Get real about PERS Crisis
Our state's PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) solution lacks any vision or fortitude at all. The multitude of proposed additional taxes to cover the gaping budget hole are insufficient and unethical.
The slow motion train wreck that is the $23 billion-and-escalating debt started decades ago with a grossly regrettable decision to provide a truly impossible golden hammock for Tier 1 PERS recipients. In no world can you guaranty a 7.75 percent return and also provide the upside return of boom economic years. I defy any PERS Tier 1 economics educator to state otherwise.
We hear very little about it from the public sector that is dominated by Tier 1 employees. Why would we? They just want to get to that golden finish line, retire at 55 and spend the next 30 to 40 years traveling the world on retirement incomes equal to, and sometimes much greater than, their working incomes. I can't blame them and I don't blame them. Likely I'd be in the same spot had anyone the ignorance to grant me this unbelievable windfall.
Unfortunately the state already is suffering for the lack of funds available for essential state services, education being the primary loser. And it is no hyperbole to say it is going to get drastically worse.
There is a solution that will take the vision and fortitude of a dynamic individual. Unfortunately, currently there is no such a person to be found. "We" voted for a governor who thinks dramatic tax increases in all areas is the solution. And she acknowledges it is a partial solution at best. You will no doubt have noticed there was almost no talk from her about tax increases until she got elected and unveiled her tax plan last week. And based on the editorial ("Tough call crucial for easing PERS debt," Dec. 6), The Times agrees with our governor. The newspaper suggests eliminating the kicker to help backfill PERS deficiencies. What is that if not a substantial tax increase? And how is it justifiable to tax us all significantly more to compensate for a horrible decision made 30 years ago that we refuse to correct?
I've heard all the weak arguments that nothing can be done to correct the PERS payment system. Well lets just grin and bear it, right? For the next 30 to 40 years? All the lost revenue? All the lost opportunities? All the undereducated kids and un-repaired bridges? If that's our sad economic future I have only one other sad solution. My kids are grown. I'll leave the state I dearly love, in which my grandparents homesteaded, and move to Washington. That would be a sad solution that I don't like to contemplate, but is entirely doable.
So lets solve this. Are you aware the state Supreme Court judges who ruled against former Gov. John Kitzhaber's bipartisan PERS reform package were all PERS recipients? How in God's name was it ethical for judges not to recuse themselves when ruling on their own retirement? How would most of us rule when asked to consider our own retirement? We need to find or create an independent non-body of non-PERS recipients that can rule on a resurrected PERS reform plan. If we don't have the intelligence and ethics to get this done, we will suffer greatly as a state, as will our children, and their children ... the ones who decide to say in Oregon.
Brian Conroy is a Tigard resident.