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Get the Facts about PERS

Often vilified or misunderstood, Oregon’s public employees’ retirement system (PERS) is at the center of an ongoing public debate about our state budget, revenue structure, and school system. Before a special state legislative session is called on September 30, here are a few things you should know about PERS.

  • This spring, Oregon’s state legislature passed Senate Bill 822, which reduced PERS workers’ cost of living adjustments (COLAs), ended out-of-state PERS retirees’ income tax benefits, and allowed employers to delay some PERS payments.
  • By cutting public workers’ benefits and reducing employers’ costs, SB 822 “saved” an estimated $810 million over the next two years.
  • This “savings”, which came from cutting benefits for nurses, teachers, and firefighters who work for public institutions, and allowed the legislature to significantly increase its investment in education during the 2013 – 2015 budget cycle.
  • Despite these recent changes, Governor John Kitzhaber has been urging Oregon’s lawmakers to reduce public workers’ benefits further and raise revenue during a special legislative session on September 30.
  • The governor’s “grand bargain” of additional PERS cuts paired with new revenue is likely to be similar to a proposal that failed during the 2013 legislative session.
  • Despite recent changes, Oregon’s PERS remains one of the most stable and best funded public pension systems in the country.
  • Before the stock market crash in 2008, Oregon’s PERS was overfunded, meaning it had $1.12 for each $1 it promised in benefits.

PERS Numbers:

72 cents - From 1970 to 2012, 72 cents of every benefit dollar paid to retirees came directly from PERS investment earnings.

61 - In 2012, the average PERS workers’ retirement age was 61.

$2,436 - In 2012, the average PERS retiree received a monthly benefit payment of $2,436.

900 - Approximately 900 employers have workers who are invested in PERS.

320,000 - There are more than 320,000 workers and retirees who are invested in PERS.

2.9 billion, 3.5 billion, and 32,000 - In 2012, Oregon paid $2.9 billion in benefit payments to PERS retirees living in Oregon. Those payments created $3.5 billion in total economic value to Oregon and sustained more than 32,000 jobs in the state.

For more PERS information please visit the state’s Public Employees Retirement System page here.

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