OR PERS Proposes Using Reserves to Help Cut Employer Pension Costs

February 8, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Fresh from several court rulings about the operation of the state's public pension program, Oregon pension officials want to plough nearly all of their $1.9 billion stockpile back into the system to help employers save on pension costs.

According to an Associated Press report, the new plan by the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) would shift all but $100 million of the nearly $1.9 billion previously put into two reserve funds back into the system.  The plan would effectively reduce government payroll costs by 1.8% statewide, PERS Executive Director Paul Cleary told reporters. Doing so could save Oregon public employers $111 million annually on their pension payments, Cleary said.

The PERS board put the money into the reserve funds in 2003 and 2004 after being taken to task by a state judge for leaving the reserve funds too lean. The goal was to stockpile those reserves, until the Oregon Supreme Court ruled on challenges to the Legislature’s 2003 pension reforms – a goal that has now been largely fulfilled with two recent court cases, Cleary said (See  Oregon High Court Issues Mixed Ruling on PERS Reforms ).

Reaction to the proposal has been mixed: Some say it makes sense, while others say it leaves PERS financially vulnerable.

The PERS Board is expected to rule on the proposal by March.