Oregon Supreme Court upholds modest PERS cuts

Ted Sickinger has the story in the Oregonian here:

Employees hired after Aug. 28, 2003 who make more than $30,000 a year are now sending 0.75% of salary to support the pension fund, with the remaining 5.25% of salary still flowing to individual accounts.

The employee cost-sharing is expected to offset about $300 million in employer contributions statewide. It is expected to reduce employees total retirement benefits by about 1% due the the reduction in ending balances in their individual accounts.

The impact of Senate Bill 1049 falls mostly on longer-term employees, as well as those at the very top of the state’s pay scale.

The law redirected a portion of the required retirement contributions that employees make to an individual, 401(k)-like account that supplements their pension benefits to support the pension fund.

Employees making more than $30,000 a year and hired on or before Aug. 28, 2003 are now required to send 2.5% of their salary to support the pension. The remainder of their required retirement contributions – another 3.5% of salary – will still flow to the individual account.

This seems confusing, but what is actually happening is simple: PERS is reducing the amount of money that goes into employees’ individual accounts and putting it into the overall pension fund, so that the state (and school districts, universities, etc) can reduce their own payments to that fund, and the supreme court has now decided that’s OK.

For more see “PERS by the Numbers” here. For those who remember how generous PERS was to people like Lorraine Davis and, famously, Mike Bellotti, it may come as a shock to see that the average 30 year retiree is now barely getting 50% of their final salary:

For example, Lorraine Davis, who retired in 2004, has been getting more than her final salary ever since:

While Brad Shelton has to scrape by with only 67% of his:

The Oregonian’s database of payouts is here.


Leave PEBB and give everyone a 5% raise with no cuts to benefits


Given the proposal by the UO Administration’s lead bargainer Missy Matella along these lines during Thursday’s bargaining, this seems like a good time to repost this from 2013. The numbers below are old and for all Oregon universities not just UO, but very roughly they suggest potential savings for UO of perhaps $20M a year from self-insurance, with no cuts in health benefits. That would buy a lot of parking and day care, or about a 5% raise for faculty, OA’s, and SEIU staff. And Duck coaches, I suppose.

Obviously no sane person would trust the UO Administration not to use such a change to weaken  benefits, particularly after their attempt to do so during the recent GTFF bargaining. And Matella seems pretty sane. But the Faculty Union could write legal protections into the CBA that would guarantee no increase in deductibles etc. Hence Matella’s appeal to the Union.

8/29/2013: UO benefits: Cost vs. value

During the first year of Gottfredson’s administration UO faculty pay has fallen still further behind the average at other AAU public universities:

  • Full profs: down from 85% to 82%
  • Associate profs: down from 92% to 90%
  • Assistant profs: down from 93% to 89%

The UO administration is now arguing that generous UO benefits justify not getting UO salaries to AAU peer levels. However, while benefits at UO may be more expensive than those at our peers (though that’s an open question, see bottom) that does not mean that they are more valuable to faculty.

In a nutshell, UO pays about 25% more for health care than employees get in benefits. The loss is equivalent to about 4% of salary for the average professor. UO pays as much as 33% more for retirement benefits than employees get in retirement value, making UO retirement benefits worth perhaps as little as 2% more than those at our comparators. UO also does not provide housing subsidies, and other benefits, that many other AAU publics provide.

All in all I think the burden is on the administration to show that UO benefits are more valuable than those at our comparators – and they’ve made no serious effort to do this.
Lots of ins and outs here, I’m sure it’s not all correct for PERS, and it ignores some twists. Comments are welcome – I’m talking to you, Bernie – and I will try to update this in response. It’s mainly about faculty but I think most of it applies to other UO employees.

Health benefits:

Health insurance costs UO $1260 a month, per covered employee, paid to the state PEBB health care plan. This rate is the same for all state employees.

OUS has tried to withdraw from PEBB, because OUS employees are healthier than the rest of the state work-force. Hannah Hoffman has a good story on this in the SJ, with a link to the OUS report, which says:

By PEBB’s own accounting, the Oregon University System is a net payer into the state insurance program. In 2011, PEBB estimated a fiscal impact of $51 million if OUS were to separate from the state insurance program. The SB 242 Financial Analysis conducted for this report estimates that if OUS had operated an independent health insurance program in 2010 and 2011, there would have been a savings of about $67 million for this two year period compared to PEBB with self-insured OUS medical and dental plans, and about $49 million if fully-insured plans had been used.

Let’s call it $59M for the 2009-2011 biennium. OUS PEBB claims totaled $235M for the same period. So the subsidy is roughly 25%. OUS used this argument to try and get out of the PEBB system, arguing that it was wrong for student tuition to go to subsidize benefits for non-university state employees.

The corresponding argument is that the value of UO’s health benefits to its employees is only about 75% of what UO pays in costs to PEBB.

Retirement benefits:

Way more complicated. The basic argument is that the state retirement plan, PERS, has a large unfunded actuarial liability, or UAL. The state has promised more to current retirees and workers than it has set aside to pay them, and now it is balancing the books, by increasing what UO has to pay in. These extra payments are not entirely of value to current faculty!

Last I looked the UAL was about $16B in 2009, market recovery has reduced it to I think $8B. The goal is to shrink that to $0 over 20 years, and then have a fully funded system with reserves sufficient to pay all promises. Once that is achieved, contributions for current workers would fall, and would all go towards their own benefits when they retire, paid from their own contributions plus the earnings from their contributions. See here for more:

In the meantime, current payments by UO for employee retirement benefits go in part to reduce the UAL for past retirees. If you want an illuminating anecdote, read Ted Sickinger’s amazing piece in the Oregonian about former UO football coach Mike Bellotti. UO paid only a few hundred thousand dollars into PERS for him while he was working. Bellotti’s benefits are about $500K a year, and his unfunded liability is about $10M.

So, a good chunk of the money UO pays to PERS, ostensibly for your retirement, actually goes to pay for Coach Bellotti and others of his ilk. You’d have to be quite the sports fan – like UO VPFA Jamie Moffitt – to count this as a valuable benefit.

How much does this reduce the value to you of what UO pays in retirement benefits into PERS? The official “PERS by the Numbers” guide estimates it’s 33%:

Approximately 68% of PERS’ total accrued liability is for members who are no longer working in PERS-covered employment (retirees and inactives). As a result, approximately 33% of an employer’s contribution rate is associated with these groups.

For more, see the Fall 2012 actuarial report, here:

So it’s perfectly clear?

What are UO’s contribution rates to PERS? It varies by when you were hired. Tier 1,2 is pre 2003. Current (post SB 822) rates are here:

The 6% pickup contribution, paid by UO, goes to the PERS fund for old hires (I think) and into a separate fully funded defined contribution IAP account for newer ones. And if you opted into the ORP, all the money goes into an independent defined contribution plan. You’re not helping out Bellotti at all, you free-rider.

Let’s say that, on average, retirement benefits cost UO 17.5% of salary, including the 6% pickup. If we trust PERS, 1/3 of that is a subsidy to current retirees. So, lets say the value to the average UO employee is a bit less than 12%.

(However, for people who opted into the ORP defined contribution plan, all their contributions go into their own individual accounts – no subsidy for the Bellotti’s.)

For AAU publics the average cost of retirement benefits is about 10%. Now maybe some of them are also dealing with UAL’s, using similar subsidies, so their value might also be less than their costs.

But if not – and keep in mind there are plenty of other caveats, most notably the ORP one – the value of UO’s retirement benefits is on the order of 2% more than our comparators, not the 6% number the administration trots out. Having strong retirement benefits will help put you on the way to a happy, prosperous retirement, but for extra financial security once your working days are over, you might want to receive support from a financial advice group such as Key, who can help you when it comes to matters of equity and annuities. Companies such as that can help when it comes to creating a budget for retirement so you aren’t left out in the end wondering where your money has gone. If you still don’t fully understand what equity you have in your home and how it can help benefit you in your retirement or would simply like more information then go to equityrelease.co.uk.

For some people, planning how much money they’ll have for their retirement may seem like a long way off, but preparing for this situation now could help to make sure that everything is already in place. Especially when it comes to your finances. Having enough money saved in an IRA can help to make sure that you will be able to live off this money when you are no longer receiving an income. Some people may even make the decision to invest in precious metals such as gold and silver to further establish their financial security. With help from companies similar to Lear Capital, (you can learn more here) you can build upon the funds you already have in your accounts to make sure that you are able to live out your retirement years in the best way possible. But it could be paramount to your financial situation that you decide to start planning for your retirement now.

Housing benefits:

UO has nothing. I haven’t done a real search, but here are a few programs by other AAU publics to help faculty buy houses. Many also have university owned, heavily subsidized faculty housing, typically used by new hires while they save for a down payment.

U of Colorado. While Paul Weinhold at the UO Foundation gave Pat Kilkenny a balloon loan for his baseball park, the UC Foundation will actually give their faculty subsidized loans to buy a house. https://www.cusys.edu/academicaffairs/documents/FHAP-description.pdf

UCSD. 40 years subsidized rates, plus help with the down payment: http://academicaffairs.ucsd.edu/resource-admin/homeloan/

UW. Pretty modest: http://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/benefits/saving/housing/hometown-loan.html

UCSB. Subsidized, low down payment rates for up to $1.3M: http://www.housing.ucsb.edu/faculty-housing and https://ap.ucsb.edu/policies.and.procedures/red.binder/sections/%5B1_17%5D%20New%20Ladder%20Faculty%20Commitments.pdf

Portland Community College adopts sensible PERS reform

Ted Sickinger has the report here on PCC’s plan to borrow $200M to use to pay its PERS tab. The bonds will go on sale soon.

While this is portrayed as a bet that stock-market returns will exceed the interest rates on the bonds (and it is) as Sickinger explains it also will give PCC access to some money up front and mitigate the effect of the PERS board’s obsessive desire to get PERS to 100% funding ASAP, regardless of what it costs current taxpayers, workers, and students.

A more economically rational approach would be for PERS to convert to a partly-funded partly pay-as-you go pension scheme, and make it explicit that we expect that a more populous and richer future Oregon will have the resources to pay the retirement benefits of its workers.

This is the decision that most other states have made, generally on a de facto basis. Of course such an approach is opposed by those who are impatient to shrink the size of government right now by increasing the cost of having state employees, and those who earn their living trading stocks and bonds on Wall Street.

Unfortunately, it seems that PCC’s sensible workaround is unavailable to UO, because while PCC has its own PERS account, we are part of a larger state agency account. So UO’s current employees will continue to see downward pressure on their wages, and students will see higher tuition, as the cost of getting PERS to that magic 100% increases.

RG editorial board: Cuts to public services will trim your mortgage 25%!

Worse schools for your kids, but more fees for Wall Street brokers and consultants who want PERS to fund its pension obligations with stock market investments, so they can get their cut. The RG editorial board regurgitates the latest PERS hysteria here, straight from the WSJ editorial page:

For a taxpayer, the obligation to fund Oregon’s public employee pension shortfall – the gap between what governments are paying into the pension system and the system’s projected needs – can seem abstract. The Public Employee Retirement System’s so-called unfunded liability is $22 billion, a staggering figure that is hard to grasp on a personal level.

But what if you calculated that liability as a mortgage that each property owner owes on her or his house, and cannot escape paying off? And what if you compared Oregon’s so-called “public pension stealth mortgage” to those of other states?

That’s what a New York City researcher and a Claremont McKenna College finance professor have done, for all 50 states, providing a unique and frightening set of data that, not surprisingly, highlights the severity of Oregon’s problem.

The PERS unfunded liability amounts to a mortgage of $106,952 on every Oregon home, found researcher Rob Arnott and professor Lisa Meulbroek. That’s the 9th highest per-home amount among all the states. For more information on borrowing money to purchase a home in Oregon, see the 2021 FHA loan requirements.

I’m no free-market economist, but when you buy a house the price tends to reflects both the cost and the benefits of the state’s public services. And Oregon’s housing market seems to think the benefits are worth the costs. Here’s Portland, where the “pension stealth mortgage” is even higher, since its police and firemen’s pensions are entirely funded by tax obligations, with no Wall Street invested reserve:

NYTimes gives Oregon PERS a superficial once-over, doesn’t cite Sickinger or explain why PERS wants $20B more for its $70B endowment

Reporter Mary Williams Walsh has a poorly-cited rehash of issues originally raised by the excellent coverage of the Oregonian’s Ted Sickinger, who doesn’t even get a shout-out. Walsh:

For decades, PERS calculated pensions two different ways, and retirees could choose whichever produced the bigger numbers.

The first way was similar to what most states do, basing pensions on each worker’s final salary and years of service. But Oregon’s lawmakers included a golden touch, redefining “salary” to include remuneration from any source.

That was how Mr. Bellotti, the former football coach, came to be the state’s third-highest-paid pensioner, at roughly $559,000 a year.

When he retired in 2010 as the university’s athletic director, the standard pension formula was applied to his salary, plus a share of the outside licensing fees and product endorsements the football program brings in. (His pension details, along with those of other retirees in the system, were first obtained in 2011 from PERS by two newspapers, The Oregonian and The Statesman Journal.)

The link goes to the PERS database, not to Sickinger’s 2011 expose:

A new analysis by The Oregonian shows that his pension windfall is not solely the product of his base salary from the university, which was a relatively modest $150,000 in 2005 and 2008 as head coach, and $299,999 as athletic director in 2009. Rather, it was inflated by endorsements by Nike and the Oregon Sports Network, ticket sales incentives and other perks, according to public records released to The Oregonian. Those are sweeteners few public employes get. And it’s a stretch to define some of it as pay from the state. But it falls under the definition of PERS salary for pension calculations under Oregon law.

While Bellotti’s benefits are an outlier, they demonstrate how the mechanics of the PERS system can generate huge benefit flows for a fortunate few. They also show how PERS operated without any absolute cap on covered salary until 1996. And they illustrate how the burden of those benefits will be spread around the state for years.

These payments were included in his PERS calculations even though UO and Nike never made PERS contributions from them.

Walsh’s story then goes on to discuss the burden of PERS payments on Oregon at length, while managing to avoid any discussion of how salary replacement rates for new Tier 1/2 retirees with 30 years of service have already plummeted from 100% to 60% of final salary. From the PERS website:

Nor does she discuss the main reason for the increases in the contributions the PERS Board is requiring from state and local governments and school boards: the Board’s insistence on moving as rapidly as possible to add ~$20B to its endowment and make PERS a fully funded pension system, instead of the leaving it as a partly “pay as you go” plan, like social security.

There are economic arguments for fully-funded pensions, and for “pay-as-you-go” plans that use payments from current workers (or their employers) to pay the pensions of retired ones. Most states have made defacto decisions to go with a mix, with much smaller endowment funding than the 100% Oregon is shooting for. The average is 66%. Oregon is already above that.

As the story points out, the money the PERS board is demanding from the state to get to 100% has many negative consequences for Oregon.

So who will benefit from increasing the PERS endowment? The PERS consultants, the Wall Street banks and investment houses that manage the money, and – way off in the future – Oregon taxpayers who will someday be able to use the endowment earnings to pay retirees, leaving more money for public services and/or lower taxes.

Of course those future taxpayers will in all likelihood be richer and more numerous than we are today – so why does PERS think we should suffer for their benefit?

Legislative update on Education and PERS bills. Time to panic?

From OSU’s Jock Mills. Sorry, I meant to post this a while back.

OSU also has a helpful page on whether or not you should panic over the proposed PERS reforms here. Also check Mr. Fearless here and the Legislative site on SB 650 here. Rumor has it that some departments are already seeing retirements.

Subject: [Government_Relations_Update] April Update: Higher Ed., Bills of Note, and OSU Day at the Capitol

Date: April 10, 2017 at 12:46:08 PM PDT

As the Oregon legislature nears the halfway point in the 2017 session, the next two weeks will be among its busiest. Friday, April 7th marked the last day for posting committee work sessions for bills in their chambers of origin, meaning that if a House bill hadn’t been listed on a House committee agenda for consideration, that bill can be considered “dead.” Same for Senate bills in Senate committees. Now the committees have until April 18th to actually pass the bills they have posted. So, for the next two weeks committee agendas are packed with bills vying for survival, while advocates of all stripes are working hard to keep them alive or kill them.

Bills that do not pass out of committee by April 18th can also be considered dead. Of course, no bill is “totally dead” until the last gavel falls. Provisions from dead bills can always be stuffed into other bills that are alive and well. (In the Oregon legislature amendments can only be accomplished in committees, not on the chamber floors.)

A good number of the bills up for consideration over the next two weeks may make it out of their committees, only to find themselves in another committee not subject to legislative deadlines. For example, bills that are a prioritybut which contain controversial provisions that need more work may end up in the Senate or House Rules Committee. Once there, those bills may sit and wait for consideration as part of the overall legislative log-rolling process. Other bills that have a fiscal impact because they require state funding to be implemented will find themselves in the Joint Ways & Means Committee. That committee will generally not consider individual bills until after it has completed work on agency budgets. In many cases bills can be folded in to agency spending bills. That process will continue for the next several months.

The legislature has until July 10th to complete its work. And, it will likely not be able to adjourn until it has coordinated and completed work on a patchwork of “mega issues,” including revenue reform; a transportation package; PERS reform; health care reform, including a health provider tax; housing affordability; and a balanced budget that will include a number of cost reductions needed to achieve that budget. Over the last six weeks legislative committees and task forces, some of them in open forums, others in closed-door work groups, have been developing proposals for many of these issues. In the coming months, all of these issues must come together in a manner that will attract the necessary votes to gain passage. For votes involving tax increases, a three-fifths bipartisan supermajority will be needed in each of the chambers.

Concessions made in one package may require adjustments in another. The process is one large, simultaneous equation with multiple unsolved variables. In the end, all of the pieces need to fit together. Compounding the mega issues are a number of other discrete policy issues that may increase friction between the two parties as well as between the two chambers. Differences of opinion between chambers can sometimes be as fractious and disruptive as differences between parties.

The good news so far is that “The Oregon Way” has not yet involved “nuclear options” or filibusters. But we have miles yet to travel and significant obstacles to overcome before the session is complete.

Higher Education

Budget Hearings: This week the Joint Ways & Means Education Subcommittee begins to hear directly from universities regarding their operating budgets. For the past several weeks the subcommittee has heard from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission and community colleges. OSU President Ed Ray will lead off the presentations this Wednesday, April 12th, joined by panelists from the other four-year universities. On Thursday, April 13th leaders from the three OSU Statewide Public Service Programs – Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station, and Forest Research Laboratory will discuss their budgets. Cindy Sagers, OSU vice president for research and OSU Engineering student, Bret Lorimore, will also address the subcommittee on the importance of university research.

Public Testimony: The subcommittee will take public testimony on university budgets at 8:30 AM on Monday, April 17th. Individuals interested in participating in the public hearing should contact us as soon as possible: [email protected]. Those interested in monitoring any of the hearings can do so via the legislative website:https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/citizen_engagement/Pages/Legislative-Video.aspx

OSU’s focus for testimony before the Ways & Means Education Subcommittee continues to focus on the following priorities:

  • Support at least a $100 million increase for Oregon’s public universities to achieve a comparable level of funding to the current biennium and to avoid unaffordable tuition increases and program reductions.
  • Recover $9.4 million in budget reductions to the OSU Statewide Public Service Programs–the Extension Service, Agricultural Experiment Station, and Forest Research Laboratory. See comprehensive information regarding the advocacy effort aimed at Senate Bill 805 for the OSU Statewides here.
  • Fully fund the Oregon Opportunity Grant–the state’s need-based student financial aid program for community college and university students.

Capital Projects: The Ways & Means Capital Construction Committee has yet to meet to consider the many anticipated bonding projects for the 2017 session. Higher education projects under consideration in that committee include a consolidated list of projects recommended by the seven university presidents totaling $284 million across all seven public universities. Included in that list is $65 million for capital renewal to be shared among the seven campuses; $9 million in bonds matched by $9 million in philanthropic donations for a quality food and beverage initiative at OSU focusing on cheese, wine and beer; $20 million for site preparation and infrastructure improvements at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend; and a number of deferred maintenance projects.

Once the $284 million multi-university package is attained, OSU is also seeking an additional $49 million for OSU-Cascades to complete two additional buildings–an academic building and a student services building. In March, the House Higher Education Committee approved HB2782 which would provide the $69.5 million needed to fully fund the OSU-Cascades campus expansion. That bill is now awaiting consideration in the Joint Ways & Means Committee.

Bills of Note

Since our last report, the following bills have made progress:

  • Vaccines for Outbreaks (HB 3276). OSU is working with the seven public universities and Rep. Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene) on a bill that would ensure that vaccines are made available to students and others during major outbreaks of contagious diseases such as meningitis. The bill is undergoing a number of amendments and will be considered by the House Health Care Committee on Wednesday, April 12th.
  • State match for the Pacific Marine Energy Center (SB 285). On Monday, April 10th, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will consider SB 285 which would provide $4 million in state funds to help match a $40 million US Department of Energy grant for which OSU successfully competed in 2014. OSU is also working to raise private industry and philanthropic funds for this project. For more information on the grant, click here.
  • University Research “Fighting Fund” (HB 2582). This bill would establish a $20 million fund to support universities as they compete for federal grants. The bill is scheduled for a work session on Thursday, April 13th, when the House Higher Education Committee will consider an amendment that will establish the fund but provide the legislature with greater flexibility in determining when and how to transfer revenues into the fund. If adopted, the amended bill would establish a process by which, during the February short sessions, the legislature will consider adding $5 million to the fund over the next four biennia. The goal would be to maintain the fund at the $20 million level as universities succeed in achieving federal grants.
  • Resolution commending the OSU Women’s Basketball team (SCR 17). On Wednesday, April 12th the Senate Rules Committee will consider SCR 17 which commends the achievements during the 2015-16 season when the OSU women went to the final four in the NCAA tournament. The Committee will consider amendments to the resolution that add the team’s accomplishments during the 2016-17 season.
  • Animal Trafficking (HB 2576). This bill contains technical changes to Ballot Measure 100, passed by voters last November. The ballot measure restricts the sale and trade of endangered species and parts and products from identified endangered species. As amended by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the bill clarifies exemptions in the ballot measure to ensure that universities and community colleges in Oregon can continue to routinely improve their collections for educational and research purposes through sales, trades, exchanges, and purchases of specimens. The bill was amended and approved by the House Committee on March 23rd, and on April 3rd the House approved the bill by a vote of 58-0. The bill is now in the Senate where it will be considered by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
  • Open Education Resources (HB 2729). On March 28th, the House Higher Education Committee amended and approved HB 2729, which would continue funding for open education resources, also known as OERs or “free textbooks.” The bill is now under the consideration of the Joint Ways & Means Committee.
  • Health benefits for employees who work at multiple institutions (SB 196).  This bill seeks to continue efforts to extend health benefits to faculty when their combined hours at multiple institutions add up to more than half-time.  This issue has been considered in prior sessions and was the subject of an interim study, but complications in defining hours and benefits between community colleges and universities have prevented benefits from being extended to faculty employed at both.  Benefits are already available for faculty who work over half-time at multiple universities.  The bill will be considered by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, April 11th
  • PERS benefits for Post-Docs (SB 214). Because post-doctoral research positions typically do not last five years, few, if any, post-doctoral scholars fully vest in PERS or ORP. This bill would enable an alternative retirement program for post-docs at public universities to ensure that they can transfer their benefits when they move on to another employer. The bill will be considered by the Senate Workforce Committee on Monday, April 10th. For a fact sheet that explains the bill click here. OSU will be providing additional information regarding the overall issue of PERS reform bills later this week.

Join us for OSU Day at the Capitol – Thursday, April 20th

Please consider joining advocates in support of Oregon State University on Thursday, April 20th for OSU Day at the Capitol. For information about the activities planned for the day: click here.


See this and other updates at blogs.oregonstate.edu/government

Attorneys Bill Gary and Greg Hartman explain PERS law to legislators

I’m posting this for my own notes, since faculty union bargaining starts in less than 12 months.

Bill Gary is the Harrang, Long, Gary and Rudnick attorney who, along with Sharon Rudnick, represented the State’s side in the Moro case in the Oregon Supreme Court, over Kitzhaber’s attempt to roll back PERS benefits. Gary does a great job explaining just how badly they lost this case: “With respect to benefits that have already been earned, the court has ruled that you can’t touch them.”

Greg Hartman was the attorney for the state employees and unions, who won Moro. Hartman does a great job explaining how the Moro decision means that current employees at state agencies – and UO –  will now be paid lower wages, because of the need to pay the PERS bill for retired workers such as Mike Bellotti.

Of course taxpayers will also take a hit, as will those who depend on state services.

Video here, links to the committee’s agenda and documents here. For more on PERS read the always cantankerous Mr. Fearless, here.

OHSU neurosurgeon boots Duck’s Bellotti from top PERS spot

Saul Hubbard has the sad news in the RG here, along with a list of the current top 100.

Ted Sickinger’s amazing 2011 story on how the people of Oregon came to be paying former Duck football coach Mike Bellotti $500K a year in pension benefits is here. In essence, Bellotti’s PERS payout was based on a calculation that included all the money he got in bonuses and Nike deals, even though UO never paid anything from those payments into PERS. (This on top of the buyout deal he got after former UO GC Melinda Grier neglected to get a written contract for him, and then assistant GC Doug Park helped hide that from reporters.)

As Sickinger explained, a large part of the amount that state agencies (and UO) must pay for PERS isn’t going into investments that will support retirement costs for current workers, it’s going to pay current retirees, because the state agencies didn’t put in enough back when those retirees were working.

This situation has gotten worse. The PERS by the Numbers report for April 2016 notes that 40% of PERS costs now go to make up that deficit:

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 6.21.46 PM

And this is despite the fact that PERS reforms have cut the amount of money that new retirees get to sensible levels:

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But that’s not enough to put the system in balance, given the high payouts to earlier retirees. PERS is now only 71% funded, and the expectation is for a large new increase in how much UO and other state agencies will have to contribute. As Hubbard notes:

The latest calculations by the PERS actuary, released last week, showed that Oregon public agencies will have to shoulder an additional $885 million in pension costs in the 2017-19 biennium, a 44 percent increase.

Part of that increase was expected after the Oregon Supreme Court threw out some cost-curbing PERS changes in mid-2015. Those changes included a reduction in PERS cost-of-living increases, particularly on large pensions.

Just don’t make the mistake of counting those costs as a benefit to current workers, as VPFA Jamie Moffitt does.

PERS updates your predicted death date

After HLGR’s Sharon Rudnick and William F. Gary lost the Oregon Supreme Court case case defending Kitzhaber’s PERS reforms – just *how* much did they bill? – this was one of the few remaining cost-savings measures possible. FORTRAN programmer Mr. Fearless does the math for potential retirees on his excellent Persinfo blog, here:

In the example used for Money Match members, the setback appears to be approximately 5 months.  That means that the benefit you receive on December 1, 2015 (if you are eligible to retire), won’t be the same again unless you continue working until May 1, 2016.  This is one of the longest setbacks in recent history. Many people will wonder what to do.  My answer is that if you were not planning to retire in the next six months, it probably makes no difference.

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UO will pay higher PERS costs, employees will get lower benefits

Ted Sickinger has the report in the Oregonian, here. This will start in 2017. I’m no actuary, but the combination of lower assumed earnings and longer assumed life expectancies will mean a decrease in the monthly payout from the PERS annuity you get when you retire. At the same time lower assumed earnings will mean that employers will need to pay in more to keep the PERS books balanced, and longer assumed life expectancies will mean employers will have to pay in more to cover the expected costs of the annuities of past retirees.

Will VPFA Jamie Moffitt and “Around the 0” spin this increase in the cost of UO retirement benefits as an increase in the total compensation of UO faculty and staff, during the current union bargaining. Maybe something like

“Look! Your already generous benefit package will get even more generous in 2017! You don’t need a pay raise!”

A statement like this would be transparently false, but given that there’s still no retraction of the most recent “Around the O” post on benefits and the UO Senate White Paper goals, it would be in keeping with past UO statements.

One way that UO might consider saving money would be to revise the current Tenure Reduction Program, to encourage higher paid senior faculty to retire, so they can be replaced with cheaper, younger ones. The current TRP is not a very good deal for faculty, and since it is not aimed at faculty on the margin of retiring or continuing to work, it is not an effective program from the cost side either.

Don’t cry for Mike Bellotti – PERS decision boosts his take back up to $13M

Ted Sickinger’s amazing 2011 story on how the people of Oregon came to be paying former Duck coach Mike Bellotti $500K a year in pension benefits is here. In essence, Bellotti PERS payout is based on all the money he got in bonuses and Nike deals, even though the state never withheld anything for PERS. This on top of the buyout deal he got after former UO GC Melinda Grier neglected to get a written contract for him, and then assistant GC Doug Park helped keep that from reporters.

As Sickinger’s story explains, a good chunk of state PERS costs go to fund past deals like these – not to accumulate reserves for the retirement of current workers. And the UO administration bargaining team will soon use these costs to argue that they can’t afford raises for the faculty and staff.

Bellotti was one of the big losers from the 2013 reforms, which cut COLA increases from 2% a year on the full pension payment to 1.25% on the first $60K plus only 0.15% for amounts over that. So he’s a big winner from the recent Oregon Supreme Court ruling that restored the 2% rate. Regular retirees will benefit a little – but people like Bellotti with big PERS checks are the big winners.

The Gain columns are per year – e.g. Bellotti’s payout for 2015 will be $109,147  higher after this court decision, a more typical state worker will get $6,290 more.

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Note: Everything is in future values – i.e. not discounted back to reflect the time value of money. These calculations are back of the envelope and don’t consider all the twists in the law, including some retroactive payments that PERS will now have to make, e.g. for 2014.

HLGR’s William F. Gary and Sharon Rudnick lose another big one

No I don’t meet another zip drive of public records. I mean the Oregon Supreme Court case on the 2013 PERS reforms. Laura Gunderson of the Oregonian has the details on today’s OSC ruling here:

The Oregon Supreme Court issued a ruling on Thursday harkening back to a basic playground rule: If you make a promise, you can’t take it back.

In a decision that will affect every public agency budget in the state, the court ruled that it wasn’t fair to go back on promises the state made years ago to its workers. The ruling reverses two controversial changes lawmakers made to the Public Employees Retirement System two years ago.

In 2013, lawmakers aimed to stop what they saw as a drain on the state’s budget by reworking the contracts of 100,000 retirees. The change cut annual cost-of-living increases promised as part of the workers’ pension benefits.

That change, along with a few others, was set to save the state about $1 billion in the 2015-17 budget. Today’s ruling means a big hole has opened up that agencies and local governments across the state will have to fill. …

Gary and Rudnick argued that the reforms were legal. They lost – although presumably they succeeded bringing in a lot of billable hours for HLGR, paid for with taxpayer money. The winning side was represented by longtime labor lawyer Greg Hartman, among others. Full decision here:

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PERS costs to fall slightly, freeing up money for raises

Hannah Hoffman has the story in the Statesman Journal. Good news for the UO faculty. The reserve funds Jamie Moffitt set aside for increased costs will now be available to bring salaries up to the level Russ Tomlin and Scott Coltrane tried to implement in 2011. The next round of union bargaining starts in December.