If The Good People Giveth, Can The Good People Taketh Away?

In 1945, when the Oregon legislature first  created PERS, that law started with the words “Be It Enacted By The People Of The State Of Oregon”.  That’s how every law passed in Oregon starts, whether it comes from the legislature or it comes directly from the people exercising their constitutional right of initiative.

In 1999, the legislature added the following provision to an already existing PERS law:      IF THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM IS TERMINATED, OR IF CONTRIBUTIONS MAY NO LONGER BE MADE TO THE SYSTEM, EACH MEMBER OF THE SYSTEM HAS A NONFORFEITABLE RIGHT TO THE BENEFITS THAT THE MEMBER HAS ACCRUED AS OF THE DATE OF THE TERMINATION, OR AS OF THE DATE THAT CONTRIBUTIONS MAY NO LONGER BE MADE TO THE SYSTEM, TO THE EXTENT THAT THOSE BENEFITS ARE FUNDED.

This provision clearly recognizes that PERS can be terminated and that contributions to PERS may be prohibited.  If either one of those two events occurred, PERS members would have a right to accrued benefits, but only to the extent those benefits are funded. No further PERS contributions would or could be made and billions of dollars each year would be available to provide services to all Oregonians.

If the legislature refuses to clean up the PERS mess that it has made, the people have the right to clean it up for themselves.  While that, by itself, would not eliminate the past wrongs, it would prevent further damage.  Oregon could then move forward with all of its citizens being treated fairly, just as its founders had envisioned.

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About Dan Re

I am an attorney who has lived in Bend and practiced law since 1981. In educating myself about the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), I was shocked at how the PERS laws were changed by the legislature, once legislators were allowed to join PERS in 1971, 26 years after PERS was first created. Those changes personally benefitted the legislators who made them at the direct financial expense of the people they were elected to represent. That is wrong and I intend to change it. In 2009, I started a non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation, In RE The People, Inc., for the purpose of informing concerned citizens of what happened regarding PERS and other issues of social and civic importance. I then created this blog to further that objective.
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