Big Decisions Coming for Oregon's Public Pension System

The Public Employees Retirement System's board is expected to vote July 28 on whether to lower the assumed return on its investments during the next two decades, reducing it from the currently assumed 7.5 percent average return per year.

These are nervous times for retired public employees in Oregon, as moves are in the works to make up a large unfunded liability of the Public Employees Retirement System. The system’s board is expected to vote July 28 on whether to lower the assumed return on its investments during the next two decades, reducing it from the currently assumed 7.5 percent average return per year, Ted Sickinger of The Oregonian reported, and this week Gov. Kate Brown's PERS UAL Task Force met for the first time.

Brown appointed the seven-member task force to propose and rank options to make up to $5 billion in payments toward the PERS unfunded actuarial liability.

"Oregon must keep its promise to retirees, but we must also reduce the legacy costs that are cutting into our public employers' bottom line," Brown has said. "I expect the PERS UAL Task Force to transparently evaluate solutions that reduce payments from employers to fund the retirement system. As I've said before, this is going to be uncomfortable, but we must provide policymakers with clear options for reducing the unfunded liability."

The task force will hold several public meetings to evaluate solutions and will issue a final report to the governor by Nov. 1, 2017. It is to focus on state assets and ongoing concerns, dedication of one-time and unexpected funds coming to the state, and also compelling local employers to dedicate one-time and unexpected funds to buying down their PERS liability.

Brown directed the task force to not consider privatizing prisons, privatizing state parks, or selling state forests.

The task force's members are Donald W. Blair, who has served as executive vice president and CFO at NIKE for 16 years; Monica Enand, CEO of Portland-based tech company Zapproved; Lawrence J. Furnstahl, executive vice president and CFO of Oregon Health & Science University; Bob Livingston, battalion chief with the Salem Fire Department and also legislative director and president of the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council; Rick Miller, founder and chairman of the board of the Avamere Group, a senior care and housing provider; Cory Streisinger, a former director of the state Department of Consumer and Business Services who serves on the board of the Oregon Retirement Savings Plan; and Charles Wilhoite, managing director with Willamette Management Associates, a financial, forensic, and economic analysis consulting firm.

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