State must fulfill its side of PERS deal
I have worked in law enforcement for nearly a decade and have served as a patrol officer in the Washington County Sheriff's Office for four years. I chose a life of law enforcement rather than going into my family's profitable construction business because I wanted to serve people and my community.
I am proud of what I do, and even though I face more risks and do not make as much money as I would in construction, I have the promise of a secure retirement benefit when my years in the department are done.
As the sole breadwinner for my family of six, that financial security is essential to me and without it, I would not be able to stay in this job.
The PERS benefit that I receive is the one that has been in effect since 2003. It requires that 6% of my salary goes into an account for my individual retirement.
As the Pamplin Media Group has reported, there is now a new attack on my retirement from Senate Bill 1049. This bill would mean, as Pamplin reports, "Under the plan, employees would contribute the same amount of money to their retirement, but end up with less money when they retire."
According to an actuary hired by the PERS agency to analyze the bill, our Individual Account Programs would be reduced between 7% and 12.5%. These accounts were designed to provide a secure retirement, using our own money, after pensions were reduced in 2003. Now lawmakers want to take our money to pay the state's obligation to retirees.
If this unfair bill were to pass, Oregon would face another expensive and lengthy court battle. The Supreme Court already has ruled that a promise is a promise when it comes to PERS. Legal analysis from a coalition of public safety workers, educators, nurses and other people who count on their public service retirements shows that many of the provisions break that promise.
Last week, dozens of PERS members testified in Salem against SB 1049. They shared their stories of what it would mean if their retirements were to be cut again. They talked about having to work longer into their golden years and what it would be like to have the rug pulled out from under them as they get older. Public employees are not wealthy, and we know we are never going to get rich. But SB 1049 feels like a betrayal.
The bottom line is that when I was hired, I was promised a secure retirement in exchange for putting my life on the line every day to protect the public and serve my community. I am proud to do this work and wear this badge. And I have kept up my side of the deal. I have kept my promises to my community and my state.
Now I am calling on state lawmakers to keep up their side of the deal and protect the retirements of first responders, teachers and all public servants.
Brad King is a Washington County patrol officer and Washington County Police Officers Association Patrol Senior Division representative.