Solving Oregon’s Budget Crisis

In March, 2011, Governor Kitzhaber stated that “We will not solve our budget crisis or the challenges that face our system of public education or health care by attacking the labor movement or trying to make scapegoats out of our public employees.”  The Governor was right.  The problem with Oregon’s budget is not our public employees.  The problem is with the politicians who were elected to represent the interests of all Oregonians but after being elected they deliberately chose to be classified as public employees so they could join PERS.  After a politician makes that decision, his or her financial interests are exactly the same as the public employees and the politician’s objectivity is destroyed.

Governor Kitzhaber is one of those politician.  As an Oregon legislator he intentionally elected to join PERS and he has vigorously supported and defended PERS at every turn.  There is no doubt that the super priority status the legislature has  given to PERS funding is why the drastic service reductions in public education and health care are being made.  Today, PERS public employers must pay their PERS assessments first.  They can provide the services they were created to provide only to the extent they have money left after their PERS retirement benefits have been paid for.  Our legislators and our governors, most of whom joined PERS after being elected to those offices,  made that policy decision and they have benefited handsomely from it at the direct expense of public education and health care.

What Governor Kitzhaber was really saying in March, 2011 is that Oregon will not solve its budget crisis or the challenges  facing public education or health care by attacking and trying to make scapegoats out of our legislators and governors who joined PERS and then made PERS funding Oregon’s highest financial priority.  I beg to differ with the Governor.  I believe that restoring representation of all interests to the PERS decision making process  is exactly what will solve Oregon’s budget crisis.  The best way to do that is to hold those who create the present system accountable and to demand that the system be changed.

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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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