It appears that the circus in Salem is finally winding down. The R clowns have relented on the Hospital Provider Tax and will vote to extend it when it finally comes up for a vote. That clears the way for the final denouement of the 2013 Legislature, the K-12 Budget. Both from Salem sources and later confirmed by those master reporters at the local moribund rag, the Boregonian, the attempt to savage inactive PERS members is pretty much dead this session. Our friends with the Oregon Business Council have cheerfully offered their assistance in developing a proposal to decouple the Money Match annuitization rate from the assumed rate during the period between the end of the 2013 Session and before the 2014 session takes up in February 2014. From what I know, the objective will be to go after all future Money Match retirees, not merely the inactives. So, while it is good news that inactives have some breathing room for now, that room will be short lived before this next attempt to devalue PERS benefits won't wait too long before striking again. If that isn't enough good news, there is always the actions of our other friends, the two power ladies in the Senate and House - Ginny Burdick and Tina (I won't cut PERS benefits unless there is shared sacrifice) Kotek. These two wunderkind are still busking for pennies to throw at the schools to help them reach their new hostage level of $7 billion, up about $250 million from the budget agreed to in the Co-Chairs budget. Since the Rs won't sign off on tax increases (except for the Hospital Provider Tax, which is not an increase, but an extension of a tax in existence since 2003), and the Ds won't approve any tax cuts, the only viable source for that extra money is --- wait for it --- retiree COLAs. Wait, you say. SB 822 cut retiree COLAs. Indeed it does, but this seems to be no longer enough money for the raptors in Salem. We might just be facing even more cuts to our COLA to help the schools out. What I fail to understand is how the Legislature does not get the fact that by increasing the school budget to $7 billion (if it happens, which is questionable) for the 2013-15 biennium, that $7 billion becomes the new base budget for 2015-17. When you've already ravaged retirees for all that is realistically possible, or better yet, you have to repay retirees because what you are doing is illegal, then what. If the economy doesn't improve between now and then, there won't be any more money for schools that even for now. Where will the needed funds come from? Oh wait, I forgot about the decoupling of the Money Match annuitization rate. That ought to free up enough cash to help the schools again. But you can only go to the PERS well so many times before the well runs legally dry. I guess the Legislature could try SAIF again. After all, that worked really well the last time.
So, I guess I'd describe this post as sort of good news if you are not yet retired. Your ship hasn't landed yet, but the Oregon Business Council will be working its tush off to make sure that when you do land, it will be really rocky. For retirees, your story isn't over yet, but the drama won't last much longer. The good news there is if they go after the retiree COLA some more, the legal argument will be stronger but no new legals will have to be sacrificed in the production of the legal show. It is the same old same old. Money goes in, money goes out, and it is what it is. Time for today's cliche-ridden post to end.