Oregon Lawmakers Rush to Finish PERS Reform Measure

May 9, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Oregon lawmakers pushed a sweeping reform bill of the state's Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) through the state Senate in the hope of getting it to Governor Ted Kulongoski before Sunday.

By a 19 to 10 margin, senators gave a thumbs up to HB 2003, which is expected to cut the current PERS $16-billion shortfall by $6.6 billion, saving state and local governments $338 million per year in benefit costs, according to an Associated Press report.

Officials had two reasons for the pell-mell pace:

  • Pension system actuaries told lawmakers that the legislative changes must be made by early May to be included in the new charges to employers that take effect July 1. The bill first has to go back to the state House to approve minor Senate amendments before moving on to the Governor’s Mansion where Kulongoski is expected to sign it before leaving Sunday on a Japanese trade trip.
  • Lawmakers also want to get the bill to the Oregon Supreme Court as soon as possible since they say the courts will ultimately make the final decisions about how to fix the ailing pension program. Reform critics, including state employee unions, say the bill slashes pensions promised to workers when they joined the public sector.

The House approved the measure on a 38 to 20 vote (See   Oregon PERS Reform Bill Sails On to State Senate).