April 1, 2017
There’s been a lot of talk about PERS in both the media and the Legislature, and some of it can be unnerving for PERS retirees. That’s why OPRI has decided to put out a special edition of its newsletter. Our goal is to help PERS retirees separate the noise from the reality.
Yes, there’s a lot of noise surrounding the potential for PERS “reforms,” but it’s important for PERS retirees to know that the proposals being discussed are not focused on retirees or their benefits. Our lobbyists have been meeting regularly with Sen. Kathleen Taylor. She chairs of Senate Workforce Committee, where the initial PERS action will take place in this Legislature. While there’s no indication one way or another as to what PERS legislation may pass, it’s clear that any changes will affect only ‘actives’ – that is, current public employees in Oregon. Changes to benefits of current retirees are simply off the table.
This is the result of two things that OPRI – and you, our members – helped to make happen. One, the Legislature is hemmed in by the Moro decision, which OPRI and the larger PERS Coalition pursued in the Oregon Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the legislature cannot touch the benefits promised to current retirees. Two, OPRI has been much more active in spreading its message to legislators on both sides of the political aisle, thanks to the campaign to increase our political action committee (OPR-PAC) and your continuing generosity. We’ve increased our support of legislative campaigns and done up-to-date polling to shape our messages to legislators. It’s all paying off.
That doesn’t mean that the board and its lobbyists won’t remain vigilant and active. In fact, OPRI continues to work with our partners in the PERS Coalition, which is most concerned about Senate Bill 913. It would make PERS changes for current public employees – again, not current retirees – such as increasing the retirement age to 67, eliminating the age 58 and 30 years retirement for non-police and fire members, and making changes in the system’s assumed interest rate. You can learn more about all this at the coalition’s website (KeepOregonsPromise.org). Even though efforts like Senate Bill 913 do not affect present retirees, they do address the benefits of future retirees, and OPRI will continue to support our PERS Coalition partners in fighting these bills.
There are a lot of things swirling around on PERS. But again, the proposals – the reality of the PERS issues before the 2017 Legislature – are focused on the actives, not retirees. So relax, and OPRI will stay vigilant.