On September 28, 2012, the Oregonian reported that the PERS Board voted unanimously to increase PERS employer contributions by $900 million for the July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2015 biennium. During that during that two-year period school districts will be paying an average of 26.7% of their salary in PERS employer contributions.
That means that Oregon’s 900+ PERS participating employers will have no choice but to makes additional reductions in services starting July 1, 2013. For schools, class sizes will increase and teaching days will decrease resulting in a lower quality education for Oregon’s children, who are the state’s future.
Why is this happening? There is only one reason. In 1971, 25 years after PERS first came into existence, the Oregon Attorney General ruled that legislators could join PERS. From 1945 through 1970, legislators could not join PERS. Non-PERS Oregonians had independent representation in the legislature when PERS laws were made. During this period PERS benefits remained constant, 50% of final average salary after a full career.
After legislators were allowed to join PERS, the non-PERS citizens of Oregon had no meaningful representation in thePERS law making process. From 1971 to 1981, the PERS legislators more than doubled PERS benefits. Then the PERS legislators forced Oregon’s judges to become PERS members, starting January 1, 1984. Thereafter, PERS members in the legislature had 100% control over the making of all PERS laws and they used that control to make PERS funding Oregon’s highest financial priority.
Under that priority, PERS always gets paid first. When there is not enough money to fully fund PERS and maintain services to the people of Oregon, PERS gets fully funded and services get cut. That is why PERS employer rates are increasing by $900 million for the 2013-15 biennium and that is why government services will be cut back during that same period to pay for the $900 million increase in PERS funding.
If you are concerned about this PERS priority, ask the people who are running to represent you in the legislature if they are PERS members and, if elected, will they join PERS as legislators. And then ask them what they are going to do about it.