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Kitzhaber Ponders PERS Puzzle

OPB | July 31, 2013 9:41 p.m. | Portland

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Governor Kitzhaber held another in a series of roundtable discussions Wednesday on the PERS system and education funding.

Educators, administrators, parents, and others joined him at events in Hood River and Happy Valley.

Kitzhaber said he’s playing with the idea of a special session to work on PERS reforms. But he added that revenue changes, and modifications to pensions are only part of the discussion.

He noted that the state has been talking with the Public Employees Benefit Board about crafting a low-cost, comprehensive insurance option for public employees, with the goal of reducing the soaring costs of caring for state workers.

“If our teachers and public employees were in a care model that grew at 3.4 percent a year, the 10-year savings is $5 billion. Those are resources we could literally, within three or four years, pump back in,” Kitzhaber said.

Educators at the Happy Valley event expressed frustration at district cutbacks driven by heavy public pension liabilities.

Past legislative changes to PERS have run aground in court challenges.

Lawmakers have been reluctant to consider the full package of tax increases and pension modifications proposed in prior negotiating sessions.

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