By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
PORTLAND – An Oregon state Senator wants to keep information on public employee pensions away from the public.
State Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, has introduced a bill that would exempt financial and other information about the state’s Public Employees Retirement System from the Oregon public records law. The legislation refers to it as an “emergency” and would require the exemption to take effect immediately if passed.
According to the Oregonian, this has long been a fight between some public officials and the media. Now, limited information on public employees and the retirement packages they receive is publicly available. But from 2002 to 2011, the public was denied the information until former Attorney General John Kroger made it available again.
The state carries a $16 billion unfunded liability in its pension system and Gov. John Kitzhaber has called for reforms. He says, and PolitiFact found it to be true, that in the next biennium a $500 per student increase in the cost of education can be attributed to PERS. Kitzhbaer has proposed PERS reforms that would limit the cost of living adjustment.
Bates’ bill comes as other lawmakers have made efforts to increase the transparency of PERS. State Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver got the state to add data related to the state’s unfunded liability on the Oregon Transparency website.
Bates’ proposed legislation exempts a slew of information about pensions from the public eye, citing privacy concerns.