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Whitsett at the Capitol
July 19, 2005 73rd Session, Issue 14
We are now well into the third week in July of the 73rd Oregon Legislative Assembly. Although rumors abound regarding the end of session, neither House nor Senate leaderships are making any substantive statements regarding Sine Die. We are now participating in the fifth longest assembly in Oregon history.
With both the OIT and Rate Shock bills safely enacted, our office is now focused on trying to move HB 3462, the Jobs Plus Reauthorization Act. This very successful program diverts money from the unemployment insurance trust fund to help employers pay a small portion of the wages for newly created jobs for the first 13 weeks. More than 68% of these Jobs Plus participants remain employed in their newly created jobs after fifteen months.
The cost savings to the State is more than $700 per Jobs Plus employee participant. Although all 12 Republican senators, 29 Republican Representatives, the Oregon Republican Party, as well as several hundred satisfied employers and employees have registered their strong support of this measure, the House Republican Leadership has declined to move the Bill to the House floor for a vote. Our work continues on this perplexing issue.
On another note, an ongoing series of articles in the Oregonian is emphasizing the budget problem our State faces due to unsustainable public employee salaries and benefits. The articles highlight two married teachers who have retired after 30 years of employment at age 54. This couple receives 107% of their ending salary as retirement benefits in addition to full health benefits until age 65. This year’s retirement stipend for this couple will amount to more than $115,000. It will be adjusted for inflation as long as they shall live. Assuming 4% inflation and an 82 year life span, this couple’s retirement stipends will exceed 5 ½ million dollars. When we consider that more than 55,000 people work for the K-12 education system we can begin to grasp the enormity of the obligation that our current PERS system has imposed on our future.
Nobody can fairly claim that this is the sole cause of Oregon’s budget woes. However, it is equally ridiculous to claim that demonstrated facts constitute an attack on teachers. If the recipients of these benefits packages want to argue that they are deserved, I challenge them to make their case. I have seen the numbers and current spending on benefits is not sustainable. If we are to create a real solution for our school funding crisis, employee benefits spending is one of the areas that must “give.”
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