Officials scramble to make up for lost savings in PERS decision

State lawmakers consider legislative solutions, Multnomah Co., Central Oregon officials mull options.

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In the wake of the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision to overturn pension reforms Thursday, governments across the state are looking for solutions to the lost savings.

Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) is renewing his push for a bill he introduced earlier this session, the Portland Business Journal reports.

The measure, said the Beaverton Democrat, “would save the pension system billions over a 20-year period by updating Oregon’s outsource-heavy investment structure.” 

“This bill would help earn money to fill the gap by cutting Wall Street fees instead of cutting public services,” he said in a release. “It upgrades and modernizes our investment programs and practices while improving oversight.”

The summary of House Bill 2733:

Establishes Oregon Investment Department as public investment agency to be supervised by director appointed by Oregon Investment Council.

(Click here for the full text)

Local governments are also searching for stopgap solutions. In Multnomah County, officials are working to gauge exactly how much the decision will cost. Before the ruling, the county expected a revenue windfall from raising property values and robust business taxes.


The ruling “doesn’t have a direct impact on our budget next year,” [commissioner Deborah] Kafoury said, “but it’s going to be my suggestion to the board that we try to take steps now to smooth this (revenue) increase so that we’re not hit with a huge bill in later years.”

Kafoury said she has asked county finance staff to bring back options based off the ruling. Because the ruling threw out some parts of the reforms and left others intact, “we’re trying to analyze the specific impact to our budget,” Kafoury said.

In Central Oregon, school officials expressed disappointment in the decision.

Bend Bulletin reports:

Bend-La Pine Schools was named as a respondent in the suit filed by public employee unions. Superintendent Ron Wilkinson said Thursday he was disappointed by the ruling but said it is hard to say what the exact impact will be for the district. “I don’t think anyone is really prepared for what’s going to happen, so I won’t even try,” he said. In their decision on Thursday, the justices said workers were promised an annual inflation increase of up to 2 percent, and the Legislature can’t scale it back retroactively. Cities and school districts said they’re disappointed in the ruling and warned it will lead to larger class sizes and diminished government services. They called on the Legislature to find new Public Employees Retirement System cuts that might pass muster with the court.

“These reforms represented a reasonable means for government employers to manage expensive PERS obligations while still providing an adequate level of desired services to citizens,” said Mike McCauley, director of the League of Oregon Cities.

The decision’s impact on taxpayers has yet to be estimated.