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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Semi-Interesting Week

Not long after I wrote yesterday's post, the phone rang. The caller ID said "USA Today". I figured they weren't trying to sell me a subscription; it must be the reporter I'd exchanged emails with earlier in the day. Indeed, it was. I'm not sure what he was looking for when he found me, but it was clear that he had been looking for someone who didn't believe that the rosy outlook for Oregon PERS was the result of the 2003 reforms. The interview started out with Tier 3 (the OPSRP) and I had to redirect the interview to make certain he understood that Tier 3 was about the least controversial element of the 2003 reforms. There were no lawsuits involving the OPSRP, there had been no howls from the unions about it and that had nothing else happened, there probably would have been no litigation. Then I tried to explain to him what happened in 2003, raising along the way some of the disparities between what PERS has said, and what the PEW report claims. We spent some time trying to dissect the 2002 numbers, which suggested that PERS was either in poor shape or in better than average shape, depending on the source. He had a copy of the PEW report and could tell me a bit about their sources, and it began to occur to me that there might be a story there as well. But, I recounted the story of all the little twists and turns of the knife that occurred to shaft "window retirees", active employees, post-"window" retirees. I'm sure lots of that will be left out of the story. The interview lasted about an hour. I was pleased with the quality of the questions and the semi-free ranging attitude of the interviewer. I gave him my take on just how much I think the reform legislation contributed to PERS' current success, and much more I thought the stock market and the Oregon Investment Council contributed to the rest. In short, I told him that I didn't think that more than about 20% of the improvement in PERS' financial condition could be attributed to reform legislation, and that of that, about 75% is currently in dispute under litigation.

He's interviewing State Treasurer Randal Edwards today. Tomorrow, one of his Portland-based photographers will come by at 9:30 a.m. to take a picture of me. How so very exciting. I get 15 minutes more of fame, and a picture to boot. I have no idea when the story will come out. I'm sure that Google News will carry it when it does. All-in-all, not a bad start to a semi-interesting week.

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