Legal and fair reforms of Oregon’s costly PERS pension system are needed to keep new revenues from being consumed by the rapidly rising cost of paying for the pension system’s $26.6 billion debt.
An April survey by DHM Research asked its online panel of Oregon voters which of three options to address PERS costs they would prefer: 1) Make no changes to PERS and increase taxes to provide the extra funding needed to cover PERS costs; 2) Make no changes to PERS and reduce costs elsewhere to provide the extra funding needed to cover the PERS debt; or 3) Make changes to PERS to reduce the system’s costs to government in the future but protect all retirement benefits earned to date by employees.
More three-fourths of respondents (77%) prefer changes be made to the system to reduce its costs, versus 37% who would prefer cutting elsewhere to cover costs and 28% who would prefer increased taxes.
DHM also tested an array of that would require employee contributions to the PERS pension plan or a replacement plan. Most popular, with 72% support, was replacing “the current PERS system with a new “defined contribution” system – like a 401(k) plan – where employees and government would each contribute 6% of employees’ salaries, for a total of 12%.”
Next most popular, with 69% support, was to “keep the current PERS system and require all government employees to contribute 6% of their salaries to help pay for their pension benefits, as was required prior to 2004.” Respondents also strongly supported (66%) giving “employees the choice of enrolling in either a 401(k)-style plan or PERS, but not both. Each option would require an employee contribution of 6%.
The survey also looked at other steps that might be beneficial if employees are again required to contribute to their PERS pensions.