BEND, OR -- State Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) considers the escalating cost of the state's Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) one of the biggest challenges facing the state. And, so do his constituents. In a recent online poll, voters told Knopp they want more legislation dealing with PERS in the February session.
Knopp tells KBND News some of his ideas could face court challenges. "Basically, using a market rate for money-match annuities; we currently have a way above market rate. And then, redirecting individual account program member contributions back into PERS. I think both of those are constitutional. And, what's clearly constitutional is creating a new 401k style program that's competitive with the private sector."
He adds, "And then, I think capping benefits so taxpayers aren't on the hook for millionaire PERS retirees. That one, I think, is something we should do. I'm a little less confident on the constitutionality of it, but I think it's worth testing with the court." Knopp's previous legislative efforts to control the escalating cost of the PERS and what he calls a drain on the state's education budget, have failed.
During the short session in February, lawmakers can only each introduce two bills. Knopp hopes to also make headway on striking a balance between keeping forests healthy and produce badly needed timber jobs in Rural Oregon. He says, "If you truly care about environmental issues, you have to put as your number one priority eliminating all the fires and smoke that relates to that. Because, the carbon dioxide output of these major forest fires dwarfs almost any other output that's out there; certainly in Central Oregon."