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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Blowing Smoke

Finally, the Senate and House Co-Chairs have provided hints on how their COLA proposal would go for current and future retirees.  Representative Peter Buckley outlined the bare essentials of the proposal in an article published this morning in the Medford papers.  Basically, as I understand the proposal (took me awhile and a couple of others helping to figure out the vague not-yet-final proposal), it would reduce the first year (2013?) COLA for all retirees to 1.5%.  Presumably, this is done to permit PERS time to program their computers for the gigantic cluster foul to follow in later years.  According to Buckley, the proposal would truly begin in the second year (2014?) of the biennium.  Members would be given 2% on the first $20,000 of benefits, 1.5% on the next $20,000 in benefits, 1% on the next $20,000, and 0.25% on everything over $60,000.  

It takes awhile to figure out how any individual might be affected by these proposed changes.  The bottom lines are that (a) PERS is guaranteed to find a way to screw this up (this involves some complex programming for PERS programmers who don't seem to be too talented in this Department) and (b) long term employees will suffer from about a 50% cut in the COLA as it is currently written.  It IS better than the Governor's proposal, and it MAY pass legal muster, but this will surely not incent people to stay in the employ of a public employer for a full career.  This coupled with all the other proposals designed to deprive people of PROMISED benefits (talk about BAIT AND SWITCH) will discourage anyone with one firing neuron from staying in public service for an entire career.  I don't know about other people, but this is a greatly discouraging sign that the state and public employers will promise anything to keep people working and then pull the rug out from underneath them when they near or are at the ends of their career.  Not happy and not feeling responsible for the current state of affairs.  

How come no one is asking about the impact of Ballot Measure 5, Ballot Measure 11, Ballot Measure 47?  How come no one is asking employers what they did with the "savings" from the 2003 cuts to PERS (that are actually working), the emptying of the contingency reserve in 2007 (right before the 2008 crash), and why I have a hard time sympathizing with a bunch of greedy, money grubbing administrators in the public sector.  They aren't being hurt, why should I?  If you want to see excesses, look at the benefits of the current Superintendent of the LO School District and his wife.  Talk about screwing the public.  Why should I pay the price for their excess greed?

The proposal by Buckley and Devlin is disappointing in extremis because it is just blowing smoke out the behinds of the Legislature.  There is no way it will pass in the form it is in.  It is only likely to be worse.  How's that for scary?




mpguy said...

I don't understand how this proposal would pass legal muster. The fact that it gives smaller COLAs to those with higher benefits is politically appealing, but still seems legally questionable.

The system in place at the time of retirement (for those of us who are currently drawing benefits) was a COLA of up to 2%, based on the Portland CPI. Anything that diminishes that would seem to be a change in the contract that was in place at that time.

I'm not a lawyer, but that seems iffy. At the very least, the proposal should give those who are retired a "do over" on the decision about whether or not to take a lump sum or receive monthly payments. For retirees, that would mean calculating our current balance, given actual earnings on the PERS funds or 8% annual crediting, and subtracting payments made to us.

mpguy said...

For those who might want to testify on this bill, its number is SB 822. The first hearing on it is currently scheduled for Thursday morning, March 28, at 8:30 a.m..

mrfearless47 said...

The public testimony begins on Wednesday march 27 at 3 pm in HR-C. Public testimony will continue on Thursday morning at 8:30 am.

Unknown said...

Thank you Marc for speaking up at the SB 822 hearings on Wednesday. I am very glad we have your sharp mind and strong voice on our side.