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Update: Oregon SAIF Grab — Legislature Backs Down

Posted By Staff reporter, Tuesday, May 14, 2019

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At least for now the surplus of Oregon’s quasi-public workers’ compensation agency SAIF is — itself — safe. Oregon Governor Kate Brown wanted to take the millions from the surplus to help with the staggering deficit of the state’s public employees PERS system.


It currently has a $27 billion shortfall.


House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney have presented what they say is a PERS-saving alternative to Browns plan. The idea comes from Courtney and leaves out Brown’s proposal to grab the State Accident Insurance Fund surplus.


The PIA, and many other Oregon associations and business groups have opposed the money grab. Their opposition has apparently succeeded. At least so far.


PIA Oregon Lobbyist Lana Butterfield said this association — and the group — worked hard to stop the governor’s grab. “It seems likely that SAIF surplus will not be raided this session to help with the Oregon PERS deficit,” she said. “The PIA Oregon/Idaho was active in a very strong and focused coalition to protect SAIF. Thank you to all of our members who were active on this issue!”


It appears that — at least so far — leaders in the Oregon Legislature agree that taking the SAIF surplus is not a good idea.


The Courtney-Kotek plan has Tier 1 and Tier 2 PERS employees — those that entered the system before 2004 — putting 2.5% of their salaries into a pool to pay off the PERS system debt. Those hired after 2004 will have just .75% of their salaries put into the pool.


In other words — as some critics contend — this pushes the PERS problem down the road and basically it “refinances” the debt over 22-years.


The governor does not particularly like the compromise but she’s willing to go along.

“In the face of significant increases in employer rates that would force cuts to teachers, public safety, and other public services, extending the amortization in a reasonable way balances the state’s needs, and the needs of the people we serve,” a statement from her office said.


Public employee unions and others are opposing the Courtney-Kotek decision. Opposition comes from how it impacts employees. An actuary consulted by opponents say employees in Tier 1 could see individual account balances drop by 7.8%. The Tier 2 group will see a 12.5% reduction in their balances by retirement.


The Tier 3 employees will see a 7.1% reduction.


Melissa Unger is the executive director of Oregon’s SEIU Local 503. “They’re asking working families to shoulder a large part of the burden while other options go unexplored,” she said. “We challenge the Legislature and the Governor to consider bolder ideas that protect working families, such as selling the state-owned SAIF Corp., to pay down the pension debt.”


The plan also does away with Brown’s plan to take $500 million of the Oregon income tax rebate called the kicker.


Now if Oregon Republicans will just return to the Legislature so business can be conducted. The Republicans staged a walkout and neither house of the Legislature can do business without a quorum.


They will likely have returned by the time you read this.


Republicans have made demands for changes and refuse to come back until Democrats make all or most of those changes. The GOP leadership says it opposes a tax plan that Democrats want to enact that increases business taxes. They also oppose a cap and trade plan and gun law changes as well as a few other bills.


If they haven’t already negotiated a deal, Republicans say they will come back when Democrats make changes.


Source links: OregonLive.comlink 1, link 2, OPB

Tags:  Update: Oregon SAIF Grab — Legislature Backs Down 

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