A November 7, 2012 article in the Oregonian, by Betsy Hammond, reports that Governor Kitzhaber is telling the people of Oregon that if they want smaller class sizes,
a full school year, lower college tuition and other education services that have been wiped
out by eroded state funding to be restored, the people must vote to raise taxes.
But what would you expect Governor Kitzhaber to say? He is certainly not going to suggest that the people of Oregon demand that the PERS benefit increases created by legislators AFTER the legislators were allowed to join PERS in 1971 be eliminated. He is not going insist that the decision of the Oregon Supreme Court which invalidated Ballot Measure 8 be declared void. That decision was made AFTER PERS legislators forced the judges into PERS. Ballot Measure 8 had eliminated three PERS benefits made by PERS legislators in the 1970’s, including the guaranteed minimum rate of return and the PERS Pick Up. The PERS judges along with almost all other PERS members at that time, received both of those benefits. So, when the majority of the judges voted that Ballot Measure 8 was unconstitutional, they protected their own pocket books.
There is no way Governor Kitzhaber is going to do that. After all, he went to a great deal of trouble in 1987 to have a SPECIAL LAW passed that allowed him to retroactively join PERS. Once he retroactively joined PERS he became a beneficiary of those legislatively created benefits and of the PERS lawsuit that threw out Ballot Measure 8. Today, the PERS Pick Up alone costs the people of Oregon $437,000,000 per year. That money could buy a lot of education for our children but it can’t because PERS legislators have decided that every cent of that money is going to go just to them and the other PERS members. To the PERS legislators, the education of our children is not as important as their retirement benefits.
Governor Kitzhaber is wrong when he says that the only way to fix the problems with Oregon’s education system is to increase taxes. While rasing taxes may be the only way to improve education AND maintain the the unethical and, I believe, unlawful PERS benefit increases made by PERS legislators, it is clearly not the only option. The Governor, however, is a PERS member and his retirement benefits depend upon maintaining the current PERS system so he can’t see any other option.
But to this non-PERS Oregonian another option is obvious. Invalidate all PERS benefits created by PERS legislators or by PERS judges. Then let the public employees, through their unions, and the people of Oregon, through independent representatives, determine what the PERS benefits should be. The public employee unions are perfectly capable of representing the interests of the public employees and do not need the Oregon legislature as part of their negotiating team. Once those two groups have reached a tentative agreement as to what the PERS benefits should be that agreement should be submitted to the people of Oregon for approval in a statewide vote.