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Others Say: Others step in where governor is silent

Addressing Oregon’s annual Leadership Summit a year ago, Gov. Kate Brown made no mention of the biggest financial crisis facing state government: PERS, the underfunded, bloated retirement system for public employees.

Nada. Zilch.

A year later and a month after being elected governor in her own right, Brown spoke again to 1,200 leaders from business, government and academia gathered in Portland. She mentioned PERS once. She used the rest of her seven-minute speech to lecture Oregon’s business community about its responsibilities to the state.

Gov. Brown continues to proclaim that the courts have left her no constitutional options for reducing the pension program’s $22 billion deficit. That’s nonsense, of course. State Sens. Betsy Johnson and Tim Knopp have put forth several ideas, most of which passed scrutiny from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Counsel.

Now, another state leader has weighed in.

Katy Durant served 11 years on the Oregon Investment Council, a panel of citizens that sets investment policy for the state’s $69 billion public trust fund portfolio, which includes PERS, the Common School Fund and the State Accident Insurance Fund.

Durant retired from the board last week, but not before she offered a warning and a list of sensible solutions to the PERS crisis. According to The Oregonian, Durant wrote Gov. Brown, challenging her to show “bold leadership” on PERS. Without that, Durant wrote: “This house of cards will quickly collapse, leaving Oregon in a fiscal crisis.

“Failure to act quickly and decisively will result in a severe imbalance” between the pension fund’s growing liability and the state’s ability to meet it, Durant wrote. She then offered several proposals. Among them:

-Increase the full retirement age for public employees from 58 to 67 to match Social Security.

n Move elected officials out of PERS and into a 401(k) type system to eliminate the conflict of interest in voting for their own benefits.

n Reduce the assumed rate of return on fund investments to a more realistic level.

n Require public employees to contribute to their pension plans.

n Make annual debt payments of about $1 billion.

Durant’s proposals — along with those by Johnson and Knopp — deserve thorough consideration by the governor and lawmakers. These reforms would help ensure the long-term sustainability of PERS and allow our schools and local governments to better address current needs.

Doing nothing — Gov. Brown’s default position on this matter and too many others — is unacceptable and would amount to an abdication of her responsibility as our state’s chief executive.

The East Oregonian Editorial Board
Pendleton

Comments

Don Dix

Gov. Brown is just another in a long line of do-nothing leaders in this state. If it doesn't somehow benefit her or her union supporters, there is no consideration at all. She does the bidding and they reap the rewards. It been going on for 30+ years. It's as if that knowledge of collusion and collaboration isn't important if there is a D after the title!

Just an alert -- your bank account will notice, even if you don't!

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