PORTLAND — Just how bad is Oregon’s public pension funding crisis?
Bad enough that Rukaiyah Adams, the normally polished investment professional who is vice chair of the Oregon Investment Council, broke down in tears last week as she spoke of passing a record $22 billion in unfunded promises to future taxpayers.
A handful of lawmakers are set to meet Wednesday in hopes of jumpstarting a conversation on pension reforms in the 2017 legislative session. They have a list of ideas already vetted by state lawyers. They say the ideas could help plug an $885 million budget hit looming over the next two years, fallout after the Oregon Supreme Court rejected most of a package of pension reforms negotiated in 2013.
But Democratic leaders, including Gov. Kate Brown, so far say they’re not interested. In an interview this week, Brown said she saw pension costs as a very important issue, but “from my perspective, that list is not legally viable and not likely to result in significant financial savings.”
It’s a similar story from Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. They insist there are no more money-saving moves that could be both legally viable and economically significant.
They can insist all they want. The reason why they don't care is because they've been career politicians since they moved into the Willamette Valley from back east. Courtney's from Philadelphia. Kotek's from Connecticut. Brown's from Minnesota. They're all in PERS, and they see no personal benefit to be derived from changing anything.
So why would they?