In a surprise development last Friday, PERS officials received the latest "purchasing power" study from Mercer actuaries. It shows that with the rise in gas prices over the past few months that the purchasing power of retirees from 2000 on have lost more ground than their counterparts who retired in earlier years. With COLA increases so limited despite increases in the actual cost of living, PERS announced that it would be suspending efforts to collect from "window retirees" for at least a year, and would petition the state E-Board to declare all PERS recipients eligible for a one time $50 ad hoc benefit increase. When asked about this, PERS officials stated "…we know the last decade has been brutal on the retirees from the same period. The combination of uncertainty about the outcome of litigation, the short period when retirees had their COLA frozen, and the repayment of all the litigation costs, we felt that those retirees who had actually managed to survive the decade should be rewarded for their persistence in the face of nearly insurmountable challenges." Dennis Richardson (R-Gold Hill), a member of the state's e-board, announced that he thought this was a great way to preserve morale amongst PERS retirees, and he thanked all of them for their perseverance in helping to get this decade behind us. He agreed that the $50 benefit increase was a small price to keep retirees spending their hard-earned dollars to fund the Oregon economy. OPRI and the PERS Coalition were, for once, speechless.
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