Oregon legislators of both parties, with some help from Gov. Kate Brown, took care of their own today (Nov 13) and set up a raid on an already burdened PERS in the process.
The Senate Committee on Rules and Appointments, meeting in a packed Hearing Room B at the State Capitol, approved Gov. Brown’s appointment of two state senators, Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), to high-paying positions on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
Sen. Devlin (L) and Sen. Ferrioli (R) appear before the Senate Committee on Rules and Appointments
The Council is a federally funded panel that provides policy and planning leadership on regional power, fish and wildlife issues. Though the Council is a regional body with representatives from four states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana), Oregon members are considered state employees and take advantage of state benefits, including PERS.
As members of the Legislature, Devlin and Ferrioli are each paid an annual salary of $24,216. At the committee meeting, Ferrioli acknowledged that his new job will be a “lucrative position”. As members of the Council, they will each make $120,000 a year.
Neither man noted that the appointments will also mean big retirement rewards. Conveniently for Devlin and Ferrioli, they have each been appointed to three-year terms. Lifetime retirement benefits under PERS are designed to provide approximately 45 percent of a state employee’s final average salary at retirement. Final average salary is generally the average of the highest three consecutive years or 1/3 of total salary in the last 36 months of employment.
That means Devlin and Ferrioli will likely end up exploiting PERS for big payouts, potentially rewarding them with hundreds of thousands of extra dollars in benefits. This when PERS is already overwhelmed with billions of dollars in unfunded actuarial liabilities (UAL) and a task force appointed by Brown has just released a report outlining drastic measures that could be taken to partially address the problem.
“Watch what we do, not what we say,” President Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, told the press at the start of Nixon’s presidency in 1969. Oregonians should do the same with the constant blathering of Gov. Brown and legislators about PERS’ deplorable financial condition and their determination to address the problem. Words, just words.