If you had the power to establish the expenditure priority for all Oregon governmental entities, from the State of Oregon down to the smallest public employer, what category of expenses would you give the highest priority to? Would it be services, infrastructure or PERS retirement benefits?
While none of us, individually, have the power to make that decision our elected representative, collectively, do have the power to make that decision for us. And they have. They have decided that PERS retirement benefits should be given the highest spending priority and they have taken every required action to see that they do. That means that when there is not enough money available to the government to provide the services that the government was actually created for and to fully fund PERS retirement benefits, the PERS retirement benefits get paid first and government services get cut.
Spending priorities are used to ensure that the most important objectives are paid for and legislators have decided that Oregon’s most important objective is to fully fund PERS retirement benefit. It is not surprising that this priority was firmly established by Oregon legislators in 1989, when 82 of the 90 legislators were PERS members.
Today, we are experiencing the results of that decision. Every governmental service, from education, to public safety, to roads and healthcare are being reduced every year so that PERS retirement benefit are fully funded. If you were making that priority decision, would you make PERS funding the highest priority? Once you answer that questions for yourself, make sure that the candidates running for public office in 2012 who will represent you know your what your spending priority is AND that you know what the spending priority of those candidates are.
Our elected officials make the spending priority decisions on behalf of us, not on behalf of themselves. They are accountable to us but that accountability means something only if we enforce it. If we do make our elected representatives accountable and if we do not like the current spending priorities, those priorities will change. The government belongs to all of the people. It does not belong to PERS members or to any other special interest group. But special interest groups will attempt to take control unless we prevent them from doing so. The best way of doing that is to be aware of what is happening in government and communicating with our elected representatives.