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Oregon Task Force Struggles To Cut $5B From PERS Costs


In this May 20, 2011, file photo, thousands of state workers protest outside the Capitol in Salem, Oregon. A state task force is struggling to come up with ways to cut $5 billion off of the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System's unfunded liability without touching workers' retirement benefits. 

In this May 20, 2011, file photo, thousands of state workers protest outside the Capitol in Salem, Oregon. A state task force is struggling to come up with ways to cut $5 billion off of the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System’s unfunded liability without touching workers’ retirement benefits. 

Rick Bowmer/AP

A special state task force started grappling Monday with a monumental challenge: drafting a plan to lop $5 billion off the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System’s unfunded liability without touching government workers’ retirement benefits.

Gov. Kate Brown selected the seven private- and public-sector executives on the advisory panel and tasked them with examining “uncomfortable” options, including selling some state lands and privatizing agencies, to hit that target, with the proceeds going to PERS.

PERS’ current $22 billion unfunded liability “looms over nearly every decision that we make,” Brown said this spring when announcing the task force.

Pension costs for many Oregon public agencies — school districts, state agencies and local governments — are increasing by 20 percent this year. Similar hikes are expected again in 2019 and in 2021, despite strong stock market returns. Even though agencies are paying exponentially more into PERS, that’s still not nearly enough to knock down the unfunded liability — the projected long-term payouts PERS must make to government retirees.

Read more at The Register-Guard.

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