After the governor’s speech Monday, the leaders of the Oregon House were guests on OPB’s Think Out Loud.
House Speaker Tina Kotek is a Portland Democrat. House Minority Mike McLane is a Republican from Powell Butte. Their chamber is split this session, with a 34-to-26 edge for Democrats.
Kotek and McLane both expressed optimism about the session, and about the ability of lawmakers of both parties to put the interests of Oregonians ahead of their own.
Both commented on the governor’s plan to overhaul PERS, the pension system for state workers.
Here’s Speaker Kotek: “We all understand that PERS has become a budget issue because of the Wall St crash of four years ago. We have a short term problem with our pension system. We have a strong pension system, but we need to lighten the load for employers. So we’re looking at solutions; they might not be what the gov is recommending , but we’re going to have a set of solutions to be part of a balanced budget.”
Kotek didn’t give specifics, saying that it’s up to budget committee co-chairs to come up with detailed proposals.
Minority Leader McLane agreed with Kotek that the governor’s proposal might not be the final word.
“I understand that he has put forth something sensible, and I’m inclined to support it. We can’t look at the budget in isolation over the next biennium without reflecting what demographic trends teach us, and economic trends for the next ten years. We may have to go further with reforms that he has proposed to deal with the economic impact of the unfunded pension liability of the PERS system, which is currently 16 billion dollars.”
The Oregon Legislature has 160 days in its session this year.