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Measure Promises To Fix Fire And Police Disability Retirement Fund

Nobody likes to see their property tax bill go up. But supporters of Portland's Measure 26-93 hope the relatively low increase of $11 a year will take some of the sting away.

As Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, the measure promises to fix a problem with Portland’s Fire and Police Disability Retirement Fund.

Currently, if police officers, or fire fighters get injured in Portland, their medical bills are covered. Once they retire, however, coverage for that injury is lost.

Robert King, the head of the Portland Police Union, says that can be a real problem — especially for someone who has contracted a serious long-term illness on the job — like hepatitis or a back injury.

Robert King: “Currently, their injury is not covered in retirement. So they’re just on their own. And some insurance companies won't accept pre-existing conditions so they just have to pay for it out of their pocket. So this measure, 26-93 is more like an administrative adjustment. It’s a benefit that is in workers compensation, so it’s a benefit that all other police officers and fire fighters in the state currently have.”

King stresses, the extra coverage from Measure 26-93 would only apply to an old injury — not a new problem that might develop.

In addition to the benefits of the new measure, police and fire fighters concede the current system also has a problem.

Ed Hall, of the Portland Fire Fighters Association, says currently they’re assured of coverage for an injury — if they don’t go back to work.

Ed Hall: “So as you can see. It’s a disincentive for fire fighters or police officers to return to work. Because once you’re off on injury, and they were to return to work, they’re back where they should be but that injury wouldn’t be covered.”

Hall says it’s hard to say exactly how much Measure 26-93 will cost taxpayers — because it depends how many officers or fire fighters get badly injured.

Ed Hall: “If they doubled the medical expenses currently incurred for fire and police officers, it would come out at 92 cents a month. So that’s what they did as an estimate of what would be a large impact. You could even argue that there would be no impact if we’re fortunate and lucky and we don’t have any career or huge major injuries that someone suffers for the rest of their lives.”

The measure enjoys broad support.  Police union president, Robert King, says he’s not aware of any organized opposition.  And in fact, no arguments against the measure were filed.

The Charter amendment would only apply to fire fighters and cops who retire after January 1, 2007.

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