Is Oregon’s Pension Promise Broken? Can it be fixed?

Oregon has sought to attract and retain the best and brightest public employees by promising fixed rates of return on pensions within the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS).  Oregon originally failed, however, to adequately fund those promises.  Accordingly, the Legislature reduced pensions in 2003.  But when the stock market crashed, public employers still had to make up the difference. This situation begs the following questions:

  • Is PERS broken?  If so, can it be fixed without breaking promises to employees?
  • How is PERS impacting other programs?
  • If pensions are reduced or privatized, will Oregon need to increase wages to attract and retain quality employees?
  • What are the alternatives to the current system?
  • What legal, economic, and political obstacles exist to those alternatives?
  • Who gets to decide, and how do we hold them accountable?
  • Should Oregon retire its public retirement program, as we know it?

For the answers to these questions and more, please join City Club for a discussion moderated by former City Club President, and attorney, Bill Buchanan with the following panelists:

Bill Gary:  Bill has been lead counsel for Oregon local governments in connection with the reform of PERS from 1998 to present and has appeared in numerous PERS-related legal challenges. He is a senior trial attorney, and partner, of the Willamette Valley law firm of Harrang Long Gary Rudnick.   He previously served as Oregon’s Solicitor General and Deputy Attorney General.  Bill has appeared in more than 1,400 appeals and has argued hundreds of cases in the Oregon Supreme Court, Oregon Court of Appeals, federal appellate courts, and the United States Supreme Court.

Bob Livingston.  Bob has served for 26 years in the Salem Fire Department as a Firefighter, Engineer, and Captain. He is currently in the rank of Battalion Chief.  He has served for the past 20 years as the Legislative Director for the Oregon State Firefighters Council (OSFFC), and is the current president of that organization.  He also serves on the Governor’s task force to identify and rank options for reducing PERS liability.


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