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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It Is What It Is

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.  

11 comments:

Cascade Smith said...

I appreciate your timely updates! Hence, my question is as an inactive in your opinion is it safe to wait until 12/01/2013 to now retire with little impact? Or should we bail July 1, 2013 or another date? Any thoughts you might have would be appreciated. And, thank you for all you do!

Cascade Smith said...

I appreciate your timely updates! Hence, my question is as an inactive in your opinion is it safe to wait until 12/01/2013 to now retire with little impact? Or should we bail July 1, 2013 or another date? Any thoughts you might have would be appreciated. And, thank you for all you do!

janedoe said...

Are we there yet? Is the real sine die upon us??? Oh, whoops, no, they still have to work on cutting the COLA further. But do you think the session will end this week or not until July 13?

Also Marc, what other mischief is the February 2014 session likely to hatch (besides money match dessimation)? I escaped the anti-spiking thing this time around and do NOT want to go through the same anxiety ever ever ever again. I'd rather bail than go through it.

mrfearless47 said...

@Cascade. My advice is to have your bags packed, a full tank of gas, and all the forms filled out. While it looks like you may have escaped the knife this time, you will need to be on your guard against the remote possibility of a special session, or for sure the Feb 2014 session. The December 1 date is probably optimal barring any surprises. But you do know the expression "it any over til the fat lady sings"? The "fat lady" hasn't sung. The legislature appears to be on target for a close early next week. You will be safe if you make it past this weekend, I think.

IPS said...

PERS accepts forms by FAX so full tank of gas seems more of a euphemism (unless others know something I don't - I suppose one could argue these are rather important docs to leave for a FAX at the last last minute).

Thanks for the great interpretation and updates.

P.S. Friday at 5pm is the deadline for docs for July 1 retirement (which I am still contemplating based on how hard it is to "time" the next reforms).

mrfearless47 said...

@jane. I expect sine die next week, before July 4th. I have no idea what the clowns might come up with by February.

Unknown said...

@IPS I would seriously consider driving forms in to PERS (either Tigard HQ or Salem branch) if at all possible. The helpful employees will take the time to actually scan your paperwork for omissions or problems that could delay your application. They will also give you a counter date stamped copy of the application verifying date of acceptance. Of course if you live too far away and driving just in not an option, then fax is the next best thing. If one is turning papers in by fax I would follow up with a phone call to assure that they have been received and to see if the documents can be reviewed for completeness. These are very important papers and worth a bit of extra effort, in my opinion.
peg

CW NP Trip said...

Marc,thanks for pointing out the legislative raid on SAIF in the past. A lot of people are unaware. I felt that raid personally, as I was a homebuilding contractor all of my working career, and my worker's comp rates shot up because of that raid. I'm probably seen as an odd duck: a business owner most all of my life yet a strong supporter of unions, workers rights to decent wages and benefits, and of PERS as a contract commitment to compensate public employees taking reduced pay throughout their careers. Why are these concepts so difficult for so many in private industry to grasp, instead for the usual anti-public employee attitudes?
In your opinion, do you think the wonks in Salem are poised to pass further COLA cuts in the next few days?
Thanks once again for your brilliant perspective on the PERS issues.

mrfearless47 said...

@CPNW. my cup of cynicism runs over this session. Nothing would surprise me anymore with this legislature? Although I haven't seen or heard about the "secret" bill,it is just the kind of crap we can expect from these mean-spirited turds.

Unknown said...

Years ago in the state agency where I worked, I remember our 'legislative lobbyist' talking about how much they hated the end-of-session press. Not their words by they described a desperate game of Whack-A-mole with gut-and-stuff giving life to long dead measures often with little or no warning. I have fears that this could be one of the worst sessions ever for such political 'games.' I just wish they weren't playing for keeps with my retirement! Thank you Marc for all you do, especially keeping PERS members alerted to abrupt changes coming at us.
peg

mpguy said...

Marc, I sense a slight bit of snark regading Tina Kotek.

I don't know how one can believe that she hasn't kept her word about "shared sacrifice."

After all, through her efforts and those of the other Oregon Dems in the legislature, PERS actives, PERS inactives, and PERS retirees have (or will) all take hits to their pensions. She never mentioned that anyone ELSE would have to give up anything.

Doesn't having more than one group of public employees give up part of their pensions satisfy the definition of "SHARED sacrifice?" :)