Beavers and Ducks should agree on this
By Jeb Bladine
Of the News-Register
In the stands, watching television and in social interactions, I’m a Duck. Once a year, at football Civil War time, I enjoy friendly and even not-so-friendly banter with Beavers who respond with equal passion for their team.
But for all the competitive spirit, Beavers and Ducks share something important here in Oregon: We’re all taxpayers, and we all should be outraged at yet another public disclosure of excess and loopholes in the state’s retirement system for public employees.
All people who benefit appropriately from Oregon’s generous PERS should feel equal if not greater outrage. After all, this kind of story is why the taxpaying public so disparages Oregon’s PERS.
Nick Aliotti, 59, defensive coordinator for the University of Oregon football team, retired this year with an annual pension of almost $250,000. He follows in the footsteps of former UO head football coach and athletic director, Mike Bellotti, who became the champion PERS recipient when he retired with annual payments in excess of $500,000.
So what, some say, that’s the system. But in these cases, and others, it’s just plain improper.
University of Oregon alumni and athletic supporters were free to jam school coffers with enough money to pay Bellotti and Aliotti at $1.5 million and $500,000-plus levels, respectively. That’s their prerogative, and in fact, those numbers are dwarfed by coaching salaries at many other major universities.
But just because there’s a fervor to win games, just because ridiculous salary levels for coaches elsewhere drives up the cost everywhere, Oregon taxpayers should not be saddled with decades of inflated payouts from the public retirement system.
Both Bellotti and Aliotti had more modest guaranteed public salaries that should have determined their retirement payments. Instead, officials found ways to incorporate into PERS calculations the inflated salaries and bonuses generated through endorsements, sports receipts and donors.
We probably shouldn’t blame Bellotti or Aliotti for accepting what state and University of Oregon officials engineered on their behalf. The same can be said for thousands of Oregon public retirees who, through almost criminal negligence by system regulators, received lifetime payouts exceeding 100 percent of their work salaries.
But for tens of thousands of retirees who didn’t receive such exaggerated largesse, and for all of us Beaver, Duck and nonaligned taxpayers, the Bellotti and Aliotti payouts are a continuing reminder that Oregon too often is a poor steward of our public funds.
Can you say, “Cover Oregon”?
Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news register.com or 503-687-1223.