In the October 10, 2010 Bend Bulletin, Representative Judy Stiegler is quoted as saying that one of the best things she likes about being a State Representative is “going to work every day trying to solve problems.”
There is no question that when Representative Stiegler identifies a problem she can act with great dispatch. After assuming office on January 12, 2009, one of the first problems she identified was the fact that she was not a member of Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System. That problem was solved just three days later when she notified PERS that she was joining as a legislative member.
As with every decision a person makes, joining PERS had more than one consequence for Representative Stiegler. It allowed her to evaluate PERS issues from the perspective of the 8% of Oregonians that will receive PERS benefits but it prevented her from relating to the concerns of the people who are required to pay for those benefits. It should be no surprise that she has voted to pass every PERS related bill that the legislature voted on since her election.
She even voted to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for prisoners in order to make sure the Department of Corrections had enough money to pay its employees’ PERS contributions for them. The use of the Department’s money for that purpose was more important to her than public safety. The fact that her own employee PERS contribution was being picked up may well have affected her vote on that bill. If she had voted no, the prisoners would have been required to serve their full terms.
It’s good that Representative Stiegler enjoys going to work every day to solve problems. That is what legislators are supposed to do. But a person’s personal interest will influence what that person sees as a problem and how the problem should be solved. When Representative Stiegler joined PERS, she choose to side with the public employees. Now her solution to the PERS problem is to increase taxes and reduce government services to make sure there will be enough money to fully fund PERS benefits. Non-PERS people, however, would not see that as a solution but as the very problem that needs to be solved.