BEND, OR -- State lawmakers passed PERS reform a couple of years ago, but the Oregon Supreme Court ruled many of those savings unconstitutional. State Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) wants lawmakers to be ready to pass new reforms during the 2017 Legislative Session.
Knopp sent a letter to Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), last week, calling for meetings during upcoming Legislative Days in May, September and December to discuss would could survive constitutional scrutiny. Knopp tells KBND News, "I just think it's really important that the State Legislature gets started now, as opposed to February of next year, to start talking about PERS reform and what's really necessary to happen to the system that makes it more fair and sustainable, long term."
He says there are several options that have not yet been tried. "The money market rate for money match would cut the annuity rate almost in half. And, we're highly confident that's constitutional. Obviously, starting a new plan for new-hires is constitutional, as well as setting some caps on what an individual can contribute part of their salary toward the retirement."
Knopp says if lawmakers don't take action, state and local governments will face a billion dollar increase in PERS costs during the 2017-2019 biennium. "If nothing else happens, it's the equivalent of losing 146 teachers over the next six years at Bend-La Pine School District. And that's essentially 15% of the entire teacher workforce in the district. A similar number will happen, as a percentage, in Redmond schools, as well."