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Letters to the Editor: March 3, 2017

Going to the dogs?

For those of you who may not know, dog licensing is now done at the courthouse and at some veterinary offices.

Stray dogs are held at the Pet Stop Inn under contract with Yamhill County for 10 kennel spots at $23 per day, 30 days a month (whether used or not). This can certainly add up but is supposed to be cheaper than the old facility. To view what dogs are available for adoption, go to Pet Finder or Facebook and check the local rescues. No adoptions are done from Pet Stop Inn. License fees collected are down and, at present, there is only one dog control officer to handle all of Yamhill County. If you call and need a dog picked up, this may or may not happen. Depending on how busy they are, you may be asked to meet an officer at the Pet Stop Inn off Riverside Drive in McMinnville.

The dogs are checked for a chip or tags. Facebook is searched for lost pets. If not claimed, they will be sent on to other rescues for adoption. Yamhill County used to do vet work and vaccinations but not anymore. This puts more costs on the local rescues which are already trying to do the best they can with little money. It would seem to me that something cheaper could be worked out with Pet Stop Inn or some other kennel based on what space was used per day. I find it hard to believe 10 spaces are used 30 days a month. The money paid for this reserved space could be used to help the rescues with vet or vaccination expenses.

Sharon Smith

Dayton

 

Not right to complain

News-Register Publisher Jeb Bladine should forfeit his right to criticize Donald Trump’s assault on the media.

In a column during the presidential election (“Hobson’s choice for presidential voters,” May 6, 2016), Bladine opined that Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump were equally unacceptable to be president of the United States, using the old slogan, “Pick your poison.” Leonard Pitts Jr., in his recent talk at Linfield College, labeled such a position as “false equivalence” and denounced those who engaged in it.

One wonders if Bladine really believed that Clinton and Trump posed an equal threat to the freedom of the press and our democratic institutions and processes. Did he believe that in terms of temperament, experience and personal morality, there was no difference between Clinton and Trump?

If the answers to these questions are yes, as they must have been since he equated the two candidates, then it may be time for a mea culpa.

Howard Leichter

McMinnville

 

A broken system

The Public Employees Retirement System debacle is visiting progressive financial devastation on public services provided by school teachers, police, etc.
Paying for this in the next five years, according to former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling, will require laying off up to 10 percent of these employees to cope with a 100 percent increase in pension costs. Yet more layoffs will be required after that.

Pensions should be reduced since the assumptions upon which they were based were mistaken. Moreover, union officials used their political clout to recklessly increase benefits. General Motors and most airlines with similarly constructed pension schemes reduced pensions during bankruptcy. However, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that pension levels are a contract right of public employees.

Will future stock market gains provide relief? Oregon’s PERS system has had the best results of any public pension system in the United States. Moreover, PERS, like all public pensions, assumes future investment returns of nearly 8 percent. In an era where interest rates are close to zero and are likely to be this way for decades ahead, this is an astonishingly stupid assumption. The California system, CALPERS, made about 2 percent last year.

Because of a demonstrated inability to make multi-decade predictions about ultimate pension costs, corporations are rapidly abandoning defined benefit pension schemes like PERS and are moving to so-called 401(K) plans that simply deposit both employee and employer contributions in a tax-deferred plan that the employee receives at retirement.

Oregon public employees are able to retire at 55 after 30 years employment with a life expectancy of about 30 years. Today, through cost of living increases, many PERS retirees are collecting more than 100 percent of their last salary. To save up for such a pension, a non-PERS employee would have to save 100 percent of his salary!

Anthony Bell

McMinnville

 

He got my vote

I appreciate Tony Roder’s letter last week, an invitation to explain my vote for Donald Trump.

Why did he earn my vote?

It wasn’t because of Donald Trump, the man. However, I do like that he’s not a politician who measures every word and merely says what people want to hear without ever following through. Instead, he’s a businessman who declares what he’s going to to and then does it. After only a month in office, he’s already proving that he made no hollow promises.

He expresses pride in America, and his smart economic policies will put Americans back to work.

He wants to decrease the heavy weight of regulations that hamper the country’s businesses (not the regulations that keep us safe, but the ones that are truly unnecessary). He wants to return more power to the states and decrease the vast over-reaching federal bureaucracy.

He is pro-life and will make sure that my tax dollars won’t go to fund Planned Parenthood any longer. He wants to make sure our borders are secure instead of being wide open for terrorists to flood in. He wants the immigration laws that are already on the books to finally be enforced.

He wants to rebuild the strength of our military and decrease the federal budget deficit.

He is a true supporter of Israel and will restore a good relationship with our main ally in the Middle East.

The only disappointment I have is in the multitude of obstructionists he faces who don’t want him to accomplish any of these things. My hope is that they will give him a chance to prove himself. His success will be America’s success.

Brenda Butterfield

McMinnville

 

America needs its press

The incessant attacks on the media by the White House raise a question. Which is the greater purveyor of “fake news” — The media or the White House?

In support of his travel ban, President Trump and his advisers have trotted out fake terrorist events:

n The Bowling Green Massacre, which did not occur (Kellyanne Conway).

n The Atlanta terrorist attack, which did not occur (Sean Spicer)

n The Sweden terrorist attack, which did not occur (President Trump).

It was a vigilant press that put the lie to these false claims. In the chaos known as the “White House” under President Trump, truth is the first casualty. We need a vigilant press to keep this imperial president under control.

Robert E. Mason

McMinnville

Comments

Mike

Ms. Butterfield. I appreciate your optimism. We will see if the POTUS can build southern walls, massively increase defense spending, make huge expenditures in infrastructure, make deep cuts in domestic programs, and provide extensive tax cuts to the wealthy and still be able to reduce the deficit. Please remember it may not be obstructionist to voice and demonstrate concern what is being proposed may not accomplish all of what you hope for.

Jeb Bladine

Howard Leichtner is correct that the May 6 column compared Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It compared their respective “unfavorable view” statistics among voters, and commented on some causes of those voter views. That column followed a Washington Post report that the upcoming Trump-Clinton race “would mark the first time in the past seven elections that a majority of Americans had a negative view of either (or both) of the presidential nominees.”

In August, my one column about fitness for office dealt solely with Donald Trump, concluding: “In the face of such systemic failure, people yearn for leadership that might turn history’s tide. But in a sardonic twist worthy of a Kurt Vonnegut novel, that purported leader, Donald J. Trump, is unfit for office.”

So, while admittedly not a supporter of Hillary Clinton in last year's election, I'm not quite ready to forfeit the right to criticize Donald Trump’s assault on the media. Or, for that matter, to criticize his incredibly irresponsible and reckless tweets early this morning accusing former President Obama of wiretapping him during the campaign.

Mudstump

Brenda Butterfield - Your tax dollars don't fund abortion.

Mudstump

Robert E. Mason - Donald Trump is the king of fake news. The man is unhinged and I (and many others more qualified) question his mental health....seriously. There is something very wrong and warped going on in his head.

kona

I find it remarkable the President Trump cannot control himself. There are so many opportunities available but he continues to be an easy target for people bent on disrupting his presidency.

Mudstump

kona - It seems that Trump is the only one intent on disrupting his presidency. He is acting more and more like someone who has something to hide. Methinks Trump doth protests too much. We're still waiting for that evidence he promised that 3-5 million people voted illegally. With every tweet he digs his own grave.

kona

I agree. If President Trump had a personality that he could control he could get many things accomplished. He has serious self inflicted problems. It will be interesting to see how this continues. I can visualize a President Pence.

kona

Anthony Bell said, ".... many PERS retirees are collecting more than 100 percent of their last salary".

Yes Tony, there are 25,740 retired PERS public sector employees who are receiving more in retirement from PERS than they received in salary for their final salary. No wonder this will be a major, major problem for public sector budgets.

kona

In reference to Tony Bell's comment, what is additionally interesting, there are 1,236 PERS members receiving at least 200 percent of their final salary.

Lulu

Trump reminds me of the paranoid character Captain Queeg in "The Caine Mutiny." If you recall, he was forcibly relieved of his command.
The president appears genuinely unhinged.

kona

I agree, President Trump has several personality disorders that fit nicely within DSM-5. It is evident that he has an OCD, Narcissistic, Paranoid problem. The United States would be in better hands with a President Pence. The sooner the better.

Seabiscuit

Kona said: "Yes Tony, there are 25,740 retired PERS public sector employees who are receiving more in retirement from PERS than they received in salary."

Perhaps you or Mr. Bell, could provide us with the how many of those 25,740 people are in excess of 100% because of annual COLA additions, Direct Purchase at full cost credits - such as Military Time, forced Waiting Time, Credit for Service in another State or public agency that did not participate in PERS and several other credits? Credits that are purchased at 100% full cost to the pensioner after taxes have been withheld and are paid back as a part of the pension check.

Maybe you could then subtract the Police & Fire credits that are added into the final computation that has nothing to do with time or salary, only what the employee bought out of his own pocket.

If you have those numbers, perhaps you also have the numbers for the number of those people who had extra variable annuity accounts they purchased to add to their pension checks, not based on time or salary, but based on how much they put in and how the market returns affected it and adjusted annually making the check you see today, different from the check they will see next year? Making the Oregonians list disingenuous.

A lot of 401K's, IRA's and other retirement funds have been rolled over into PERS retirement accounts to buy these direct "full" cost purchases.

Do you have those numbers that can artificially inflate the monthly check but don't have a thing to do with the Salary computation? To be continued

Seabiscuit

- Continued-
If you want to throw out the numbers like 25,740, that's wonderful. But, I think you have an obligation to explain how many of the 25,740 are actually exceeding 100% because of the salary computation and not because of other reasons.

My mother in law started out on Social Security and when she died, she was plus $500 from the start. My dad was plus $200 from the start and my mother is currently at plus $400. I don't think they were supposed to live into their mid 90's...

kona

seabiscuit, yes many monthly payments above 100 percent are a result of the very generous cost of living increases. The remarkable thing about the PERS monthly valuations are that they are based on the final three years of employment which for most people is their highest three years. Almost any other retirement plan is an increasing contribution from the low levels when a person is first employed increasing as they progress through the years. This alone contributes greatly to the PERS unsustainable situation. I don't think there is any solution except laying off public employees or really hitting the citizens of Oregon to pay for this disaster (except if you are a PERS member).

Seabiscuit

Excellent Kona.
You completely dodged the question and failed to answer it.

How many retiree's in that number you posted have incorrect numbers as it applies to the final computed salary? You have to go back to the day of retirement to find that number and not the Oregonians disclosure data base.

Then you tried to sidetrack the issue with what you perceived as a "very generous cost of living increases" as well as an incomplete and lacking description of final salary computations.

The way I read it in the ORS's (238 and 238A), those generous COLA's are 2% for the grandfathered crowd and less than that for the post "PERS reform" crowd. Even when the actual Portland Index is 5%, PERS COLA at the max remains at 2%.

In the past 31 years, SSA has averaged 3.795%. PERS is under 2% now with the new legislation, 2% prior to that.
Report after report of employees getting 3, 4 or 5 percent COLA adjustments in their contracts, but it is the 2% or, for the post legislation crowd, less than 2%, to retiree's that you single out as being very generous. Got it!

Not denying there is a problem with Oregon PERS. But let's not be throwing misleading numbers around. And provide support as to why the numbers we use are accurate.

ORS Chapters 238 & 238A
http://www.oregon.gov/PERS/docs/pers_by_the_numbers_9-2016.pdf

kona

Seabiscuit, you asked a question that I doubt anyone in the State of Oregon could answer. Whatever the answer to your question, whether 22,000 or 25,740, the number represents the primary reason Oregon PERS will be causing major budget problems for several years. Can you answer your question for us? Does your 401(k) or IRA get any cost-of-living increase?

So, since you don't think the numbers presented are a problem, what is your opinion on why PERS is going to be difficult for Oregon public sector budgets?

1981 Cost-of-Living Adjustment Implemented ad hoc COLA increase (4% to 11.4% benefit increase) for existing retirees.

1985 Cost-of-Living Adjustment Implemented ad hoc COLA increase (3% to 7.28% benefit increase) for existing retirees.

2015 Cost-of-Living Adjustment
Annual COLA of up to 2% restored for service time accrued
before October 1, 2013. COLA for service time after that date
uses a lower rate. Service time accrued in both periods is

1989 Cost-of-Living Adjustment Implemented ad hoc COLA increase (0% to 25% benefit increase) for existing retirees.

2015 Cost-of-Living Adjustment Annual COLA of up to 2% restored for service time accrued before October 1, 2013. COLA for service time after that date uses a lower rate. Service time accrued in both periods uses a lower rate. Service time accrued in both periods is “blended.”

kona

Additional reasons why PERS is unsustainable without sacrifice of future public sector employees or large increases of taxes by taxpayers.

As a “rule of thumb,” the present value of a Tier One member’s benefit is at least three to four times the present account balance, at today’s interest rates. Here’s why: (1) the regular Tier One account continues to grow at 8% per annum between now and retirement, far above current market
rate; (2) at retirement the account will be doubled by the Money Match; (3) the account (as doubled) is then converted to a monthly payment based on a PERS table that also has an 8% interest rate built into it; and (4) the monthly benefit will then receive an annual COLA increase of up to 2% per year for life.
.
As a result, the projected monthly benefit usually has a present value of between three and four times the current account balance.

Above is from Oregon State Bar Family Law Section Annual Conference
October 2013.

Seabiscuit

COLA is capped at 2% for service time before the law 238.360 was passed.


For all retirees from 1990-2015, the average annual retirement benefit equaled 54% of final average salary at the time of retirement
For 2015 retirees, the average annual retirement benefit equaled 44% of final average salary

For all retirees from 1990-2015, there were 6.6% who received annual benefits more than 100% of final average salary. The average years of service for this group was 31 years

For 2015 retirees, there were 2.6% who received annual benefits more than 100% of final average salary. The average years of service for this group was 35 years

http://www.oregon.gov/PERS/docs/pers_by_the_numbers_9-2016.pdf

PERS reforms began in 1993 when Tier 1 was replaced with Tier 2.
More reforms occurred in 2003 and new laws in 2013. And still they say it is not enough.

Kona said,"So, since you don't think the numbers presented are a problem, what is your opinion on why PERS is going to be difficult for Oregon public sector budgets?"

Now pay real close attention to this next line because you apparently missed it in my earlier post.........

Not denying there is a problem with Oregon PERS. But let's not be throwing misleading numbers around.

kona

Nothing "misleading" any more than your number when you stated "For all retirees from 1990-2015, the average annual retirement benefit equaled 54% of final average salary at the time of retirement
For 2015 retirees, the average annual retirement benefit equaled 44% of final average salary".

Those numbers included retirees who worked as little as five years as PERS members.

Again, you said there is a problem with PERS but you for some reason won't identify the problem. Are you suggesting the high compensation has nothing to do with the problem? Are you or spouse a PERS retiree?

Seabiscuit

Those numbers are straight from actuarial accountants and accepted and posted by the State of Oregon to see. I posted a direct link to them, a fact you continuously choose to ignore.

If you have not figured out that the "problem" is cost over runs and the cost of the system, then I guess there really isn't anymore to talk about.

"Are you or spouse a PERS retiree?"

Are you? If you think this is pertinent to the conversation so be it. The conversation is over with.

By the way, if you had read my earlier posts, perhaps you would have answered your own question!

kona

Well that is fine. My numbers which you got defensive about came straight from the PERS administration. I didn't embellish anything. And yes, I have two PERS members in my immediate family. The reason I asked you, which obviously you didn't want to answer, is that in the last thirty years I have closely followed PERS and its looming problems I have never met anyone except PERS members so defensive about the situation at PERS.

Seabiscuit

"And yes, I have two PERS members in my immediate family."

Well, I guess that makes you the unabridged non questionable expert.

I guess we Uniformed non experts are not allowed to research and study the issues on our own and come up with numbers from the State of Oregon.

"My numbers which you got defensive about came straight from the PERS administration."

But wait a minute....

" I doubt anyone in the State of Oregon could answer. Whatever the answer to your question, whether 22,000 or 25,740, the number represents the primary reason Oregon PERS will be causing major budget problems for several years."

and then in another area....

"Above is from Oregon State Bar Family Law Section Annual Conference October 2013."

Guess I didn't research PERS enough to realize they were one in the same.

And nothing personal, with the exception of some military related conversations, my personal information is of no business to strangers on an open internet forum. Do I know people on PERS Pensions, yes. Had you read my posts you would have know this.

Have a nice day.


kona

Why the attitude?

Jeb Bladine

It's challenging to argue PERS based on statistics – there are so many system variables and inconsistencies among retirement accounts that any statistical argument can be offset by some other set of numbers.

But here’s one reality: The PERS system's unfunded liability is $21 billion, so someone definitely screwed up, as the president might say, big-league.

Here’s something people forget: Years ago, the PERS board made a terrible decision to reinstate “money match” as an alternative payout system. Then, they made the incredibly irresponsible decision of pouring PERS earnings into that system instead of setting them aside as a safety net. The end result created a great many of those over-100% recipients.

Tens of thousands of people capitalized on those blunders by retiring at relatively early ages, giving them inflated pensions for life. That’s why PERS is so underfunded – not system error, but human error.

If you want to look through the whole, depressing history of public policy mistakes related to PERS, here’s a compilation of stories and commentaries between 2001 and 2013, available to N-R readers:

http://newsregister.com/archive?articleArchiveSearch%5Bsearch%5D=1&articleArchiveSearch%5Btext%5D=an&articleArchiveSearch%5BdateStart%5D=1%2F1%2F2001&articleArchiveSearch%5BdateEnd%5D=3%2F11%2F2017&articleArchiveSearch%5Bcategory%5D=PERS+In-Depth&articleArchiveSearch%5BsortBy%5D=dateDesc

kona

Thank you for the information Jeb. It is amazing how this economic disaster has played out so accurately as predicted over two decades ago. There was always the dog fight in every meeting between public sector employees (and their unions) and the reality of what was going to happen. There was never a "let's fix this and get it right" attitude from the public sector unions (and for the most part, public sector employees). The priority for the unions was to get every cent available for their members with total disregard for the future. There has been (and still is) resistance by the Democratic Party to do anything that might disturb their base support and their symbiotic relationship with the Oregon Democratic Party. It will be interesting to see how many taxes the Oregon Democratic Party will find necessary to support this "boondoggle". The unintended consequences of the poor choices are now, as predicted, going to create significant problems for the entire state.

kona

There has been (and still is) resistance by the Democratic Party to do anything that might disturb their base support and their symbiotic relationship with the public sector unions.

Jeb Bladine

Glad you caught that one glitch, Kona. Now, as corrected, it's a statement we might want to reprint along the way.

kona

An interesting quote (among many) from a 2001 article that illustrates the perennial problem from the public sector unions and their cooperation.

"Some union leaders criticize the deficit estimates and doubt if there's a big problem."

Pat West, a firefighters union lobbyist, said a PERS estimate of a potential $7 billion shortfall covered just one fund and that there's enough money in another PERS fund to avoid a deficit."

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