Oregon’s Governor Speaks On Future of Pension Reforms

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The Oregonian is running an interesting column in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election for state governor. The column is called “Tough Questions”, and it gives readers a chance to ask questions to the two candidates, incumbent Gov. Kitzhaber and his challenger, Republican Rep. Dennis Richardson.

Today, a reader asked the governor a question related to the pension reforms enacted by the state last year.

Here’s the exchange, from the Oregonian:

Reader: The court decision on the 2013 PERS changes is expected by the 2015 Legislature. You’ve said that you’re done with PERS reforms. Does that mean that if the Court strikes down all or some of the PERS changes, you will not revisit the changes that were rejected previously? If so, then what budget items do you plan on cutting to make up for the extra PERS costs.

Gov. Kitzhaber: The 2013 PERS reform, along with pension fund earnings, reduced the system’s unfunded liability from $16.3 billion at the end of 2011 to $8.1 billion at the end of 2013. As a result of these changes we are already succeeding in controlling costs and today public employers are investing more in programs and services and school districts have begun hiring back teachers, reducing class size and restoring a full school year.

The reforms adopted are fair, progressive and legally defensible. We believe the State will prevail in court. With PERS off the table, we need to harness the same bipartisan support to make targeted investments in third grade reading, science and technology education and other key programs.

In a poll on the Oregonian website, 72 percent of readers said they though Kitzhaber dodged the question with his answer. But 28 percent of readers thought he answered the question fully.

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