Oregon PERS Director Resigns

October 31, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Jim Voytko, who led the Oregon state pension fund through a tumultuous year, has resigned his post, citing differences with the agency's new board.

Voytko was put off by the much more hands on approach of the new five-person board appointed by Governor Ted Kulongoski in September.   While Voytko’s resignation is effective immediately, he agreed to stay on as a consultant for four months to help the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) through the transition, according to a Salem (Oregon) Statesman Journal story.

“It is clear there are differences between us regarding management initiatives and the strategic direction they support,” Voytko wrote in a letter to the PERS board.   He went on to say his next move is likely a position in the private sector.

Prior to signing on with PERS in March 2000, Voytko was a Wall Street Investment officer and immediately made an impact for celebrated financial and policy matters.   However, coming in at the top of stock market bubble meant a long ride down for Voytko and the rest of the PERS staff as the fund ended up with a $16-billion long-term shortfall by the time the 2003 legislature term began.

During the session a trio of changes were approved that halved the shortfall but drove pension benefits lower for tens of thousands of public employees and recent retirees. The new plan – expected to save Oregon taxpayers $103 million in pension costs between 2005 and 2007 and $7 billion over 30 years – provides guaranteed monthly pensions for newly hired public servants (See Oregon Lawmakers OK Reformed Public Pension Plan ).

Workers, however, will not get guarantees that their pension accounts will grow each year or be matched by employers at retirement. The regular retirement age is boosted to 65, five years older than in a 1995 reform. Employees can retire earlier if they work 30 years in the public sector or are in police and firefighting jobs.   After 30 years, workers will get guaranteed pensions equal to 45% of their top salary. That will be supplemented with whatever their individual investment accounts produce. Combined with Social Security, workers can retire on incomes close to their salary while working.