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Monday, April 27, 2009

Shorty Wanna Be A Thug

Yesterday's Boregonian had its usual Sunday feature - "Short Takes". Our latest winner in the thuggish, misinformation canard contest goes to Paul Wilson of Lake Oswego. This shorty persists in the delusion that State and Federal retirees do not pay Oregon Income taxes. He further suggests that our Governor take a look at this exemption as a way of repatriating funds for the Oregon Treasury.

I hate to destroy people's fantasies, but Oregon public retirees have been paying state income taxes since 1991 and the Federal employees are not exempt either. Both are treated equally in compliance with the Davis v Michigan case decided by the US Supreme Court in 1988, and the Hughes v Oregon case decided by the Oregon Supreme Court in 1991.

It is bad enough that PERS members and retirees get bashed for the structure of the PERS system over which they have no control, but it just turns thuggish when both letter writers and the Oregonian persist in allowing this kind of continuous sloppiness.

Obviously in their zeal to cut staff, the Oregonian lost almost all of its editorial integrity (if it ever had any), Its editorial currency is worthless. Perhaps the only good to come out of this will be another round of cancellations of subscriptions.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cough Up The Bucks

Just got word today of a hearing scheduled for HB 3304, the OPRI-sponsored bill for an ad hoc COLA increase for certain PERS retirees. Ad hoc increases are permitted by statute when PERS retiree income is reduced by inflation and purchasing power declines significantly. It has been quite a while since the last ad hoc increase was granted. This one targets those who have been retired for quite a while (late '80s and early '90s), before the large stock runup in the late 1990s. In my opinion, this bill has little chance of passing given the current economic state and the public contempt for PERS and retirees.

For those interested, the hearing is scheduled in Room E at 5:30 tonight at the capitol in Salem.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Don't Cut Your Hair

Remember back a few posts ago "Heartless" in which I described the utterly unfathomable amount of time Judge Kantor is taking to render his decision in the White case? Remember how screwy Judge Kantor's behavior was in scheduling hearings and then canceling them. Well, Judge Kantor is at it again. Several sources (AFSCME, Greg Hartman) report that after nearly 6 months of silence after canceling oral arguments in the White case, Judge Kantor has now inexplicably decided that they wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. So, now they've been scheduled for June 2009. I get the distinct feeling that Judge Kantor really, really, really, really (seriously) doesn't want to make a ruling in this case. Maybe he figures if he drags it on long enough that all the retirees will be dead and the question will become moot. I have no idea what his problem is, but concern for the speedy resolution of disputes doesn't seem one of them. Perhaps he's off his meds as well and is confused about all those things he understood so well that he decided he could rule from the bench without the need for those pesky oral arguments. Who knows, but I'm pretty disgusted with the whole thing. How about you?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My Lucky Day

Today is April 1st and is the time for traditional pranks to be played on people. There are some delicious ones out there today, played by our friends at Google, at Yahoo, and many others. One place where there is no joke is at PERS. Today is "payday" for all us retirees, and most may have noticed that the "take home" amount of their PERS Benefit Check increased this month. This isn't a joke. It is a result of the "making work pay" stimulus program from Congress. This results in a refigured federal withholding deduction that credits in $400 annually ($800 for marrieds) to the withholding tables. The result is a lower federal withholding.

That's the good news. Now for the bad news. Retirees aren't entitled to the money. You will have to repay in next April when you file your 2009 income taxes. This quirk arises because PERS must treat your monthly benefit as taxable income for withholding purposes, but the "Making Work Pay" stimulus package specifically excludes pension benefits (except Social Security, which gets its own credit next month). So, if you want to avoid a tax hit for 2009, you might want to think about changing your withholding exemptions (IRS Form W-4) and submit it to PERS. I figured that if you do it for the second half of 2009, you should come out pretty close.

If you don't like this, it isn't PERS' problem. They have to follow the IRS rules, even when they are obviously contradictory as this one is. Enjoy all the other legitimate "jokes" out there. They are legion and fun.