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Monday, June 16, 2014

Postcards From Paraguay

School is out and everyone seems to be on vacation (though looking outside, I keep wondering if summer will actually show up on schedule).  This means that for PERS retirees and near retirees, nothing much is happening, which is why this site has been so quiet for two months.  The only emails I’m getting these days are from candidates for the November elections.  Honestly, I don’t know why these people waste the time and energy sending this stuff out now; nobody cares until after Labor Day, the official start of the political “silly season”.  

As far as PERS is concerned, the action will be in the Fall when the Oregon Supreme Court takes the oral arguments on the lawsuits over SB 822 and SB 861, the two bills that alter the retiree COLA, and encompass the income tax subsidies (SB 656 and HB 3349) for out-of-state retirees.  As I’ve learned from experience attending these oral arguments, they are rarely helpful in reading what the outcome will be.  The attorney presentations are brief, interrupted often by Justices’ questions, and never reveal anything about what outcome the Supremes will render.  With the oral arguments scheduled in early Fall, it is likely that the final verdict will be rendered sometime in the early part of 2015, possibly before the Legislature convenes in February.  I’d be surprised if a verdict arose in this calendar year, but stranger things have happened.

Regardless of the court’s final decision, the Fall elections will have a definite impact on PERS issues.  The D’s have announced that they are “done with PERS, regardless of the Court outcome”, while the Rs have said nothing.  Nonetheless, the default R candidate for Governor, Dennis Richardson, has served in the Legislature long enough to have sponsored, cosponsored, or shilled for nearly every anti-PERS member/retiree bill since 2003.  He is considered the strongest opponent of PERS members/retirees, but oddly as Governor his power would be limited to encourage and bully for certain legislation.

I am again confronted by the prospect of not voting in two races this fall - I cannot gather the energy or trust needed to vote for our current Governor, who stuck the knife in about as deeply as possible to all his backers in the last general election.  That makes me absolutely insecure about his claim “to be done with PERS, no matter the court outcome”.  I just don’t believe him and, therefore, have great difficulty supporting his re-election.  On the other hand, Dennis Richardson is so slimy (to me anyway), that I can’t vote for him either.  Thus, my current dilemma.  The other race that I find myself incapable of becoming enthusiastic about is Richard Devlin’s race for re-election to the Oregon Senate.  He’s my Senator and I know him pretty well.  His behavior during the 2013 sessions was nothing short of reprehensible.  When questioned about his advocacy of cuts to retiree COLAs and to the income tax subsidy, he was downright rude and nasty to questioners who challenged his loyalty to his supporters.  At one point during one of these meetings I thought he was certain to have a heart attack or a stroke because he was beet red with anger at the opposition citizens (including me).  I don’t even know if he has an opponent, that’s how disinterested I am in his race.  Chalk up another “no vote”.  So far me, the only reason to vote this Fall are for local issues, especially the ones that want to tax me more for my PERS benefit.  My former employer (PSU) is using its newly acquired autonomy to cut budgets because of “PERS costs”.  Fortunately, they aren’t asking me for money, but my colleagues get to suffer because we retirees are again their convenient “whipping boys/girls”.

I’m going to travel around this summer, mostly outside of Oregon because I need a serious break from the constant pounding of the drums against PERS retirees.  I plan to spend my hard-earned dollars almost anywhere but in Oregon.  My loyalties and affections for the state where I’ve lived for 44 years are diminishing rapidly.  I will send postcards in the form of new posts whenever something interesting or of note occurs.  But for now, I want to stop hearing the noise.  I don’t feel like supporting Oregon’s endeavors.  I don’t expect it to be better elsewhere, but at least somewhere else the locals will be happy to see me and happy to take my money.  This is the start of my own “Boycott Oregon” campaign.  Feel free to join or feel free to start your own “Support Oregon” or “I Heart Oregon” campaign.  For me, this state needs a swift kick in the butt in the form of retirees stopping supporting Oregon for awhile.  I know that people will accuse me of “cutting off my nose, etc”.  If the budget falls, blah, blah, blah.  Trust me, budget falls, budget increases matter not a whit when it comes to PERS.  They simply want our money and will take it however they can get it.  So, I will be supporting WA, CA, NV, UT, AZ as well as places abroad for awhile.