Gov. Brown Signs Executive Order On Collective Bargaining

By Chris Lehman (OPB)
Salem, Oregon April 27, 2017 6:30 p.m.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signs an executive order in her ceremonial office Thursday.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signs an executive order in her ceremonial office Thursday.

Chris Lehman

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed an executive order aimed at improving the way the state negotiates with its unionized workers. The order establishes that money set aside for collective bargaining will now include salary increases and health care costs.


Related: Huge Bill Is Coming Due For Oregon's Past Pension System Mistakes

Until now, that so-called "salary pot" only included cost-of-living increases. The change could make it easier for lawmakers to factor in the total cost of employees when they work on state agency budgets.

Brown also announced that she's creating a task force to come up with ways to reel in the costs of Oregon's public employee pension system. According to the governor's office, the panel will include financial experts, public employees and employers, and members of the board that currently oversees the Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS. Brown says the task force will explore ways to pay down as much as $5 billion in unfunded PERS liabilities. How would the state raise that much cash? By potentially selling off billions of dollars' worth of state assets.

"A few items are off the table," said Brown. "We will not be privatizing prisons, nor will we be selling state parks or state forests."

The largest state workers' union in Oregon welcomed the news.


"We look forward to working with Governor Brown’s task force to find solutions to the PERS unfunded liability that will not place the entire burden on working families employed by the state," said Melissa Unger, the political director for SEIU 503.

The proposals also drew praise from the state's business community. Sandra McDonough, the President of the Portland Business Alliance said, "We are glad to see the governor putting these concepts on the table. This is a time when we all need to be working together and examining every possible opportunity for putting the state on a path to long-term fiscal health."

The governor also said that next week, she'll sign another executive order that aims to reduce the amount of uncollected debt owed to the state. The governor's office says as much as 95 percent of the state's uncollected debt is in the form of unpaid taxes. The executive order would turn the responsibility for collecting the remaining types of debt over to the Department of Revenue. It would also ask state agencies to consider whether a contractor owes money to the state before issuing or renewing a state contract. And it would ask the Department of Revenue to look into creating a website that lists people and companies that owe money to the state.

The moves come as Oregon lawmakers are attempting to bridge a $1.6 billion gap in the general fund as they craft the next two-year budget.

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