Did You Know This About PERS and Oregon’s Judges

When PERS was created in 1945, Oregon’s judges were not members.  The judges had their own retirement plan, the Judges Retirement Fund.  That situation remained unchanged until 1983 when the Oregon legislature made all persons becoming judges after 1983 mandatory PERS members.  The legislature did this just eight years after they allowed themselves to retroactively join PERS and just four years after they gave public employers the right to make the people of Oregon pay PERS contributions for the PERS employees.  Once the judges were in PERS, PERS members in the legislature and the courts controlled all PERS decision making.

For persons who were judges before 1984, the legislature gave them a choice.  They could remain in the Judges Retirement Fund or they could join PERS.  If they stayed in the Judges Retirement Fund, they would have to pay 7% of their salary into that fund every month.  If the joined PERS, however, the people of Oregon would pay the 7% monthly retirement contribution for them.  This basically meant that each judge joining PERS would get an immediate 7% increase in pay.

All PERS members other than judges were required to make a 6% monthly retirement plan contribution.  As indicated above, the monthly contribution for judges was 7% and it was being paid for them by the people of Oregon.  The  monthly contributions for most other PERS members were also being paid for them by the people.  This difference in employee contributions amount between judges and other PERS members gave the judges the greatest amount to lose if  the law was ever changed to make the PERS member, rather than the people, pay that monthly contribution.

In 1994, the people of Oregon passed Ballot Measure 8.  It prohibited the people from paying PERS contributions for all PERS members and made PERS members pay their own contributions.  Ballot Measure 8 was challenged by the PERS members and in 1996 the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that Ballot Measure 8 was unconstitutional.  As a result, the people of Oregon still pay the employee PERS contributions for all judges and over 70% of all other PERS members.

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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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