By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
PORTLAND | Another Oregon lawmaker is hoping recent rate increases on taxpayer funded agencies will garner his proposals to reform the Public Employees Retirement System a second look.
State Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, said he will introduce a package of PERS reforms aimed at decreasing the burden on schools and other taxpayer-funded agencies that have to make cuts to keep up with payments. He also wants to introduce reforms focused on “good governance and fairness.”
Conger, who took office in 2010 and pushed for PERS reform in 2011 and again in 2012 when the Senate President announced no PERS issues would be heard because it was a short session, said until the legislature acts to make PERS sustainable, things are just going to get worse.
The employer contribution rate for PERS will go up again in 2013, after rates were doubled in this current biennium. That means schools and government agencies will be once again scraping to make ends meet, forcing them to fire teachers and cut services.
Conger said because the increased rate of 45 percent on all 900 employers – cities, schools, police and fire – was capped, this will be a problem in the future.
“So we know it’s going to go up again,” he said.
In addition to reform proposals which he says will lessen the burden on taxpayer-funded agencies, Conger wants to take himself and the rest of the state’s lawmakers off the system.
“The idea is to remove the taint of potential conflict,” he said, adding there is also a proposal to take judges off of PERS. Judges are often faced with PERS cases when legislative reforms are challenged in court.
The legislature will likely see a slew of reform bills come up when lawmakers are back in Salem in February. The 45 percent increase, about $900 million across the board, has repercussions that can’t be ignored, Conger said. He added though reforms bills haven’t moved in the past, he thinks lawmakers won’t be able to take that same “wait and see” attitude, hoping the problem will fix itself.
“We just don’t have the money available to continue to provide services that we have to provide,” he said.