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Smith: PERS reform comes with problems

SALEM, Oregon – The Democrats in the Oregon Legislature are offering up a plan to reform the Public Employees Retirement System. It’s been in the works for months and would ease employee contributions and refinance the state’s pension debt. Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner) says he’s evaluating it, but isn’t sure it will fly legally.

“We have an obligation,” Smith said of the PERS agreement the state committed to years ago. “It’s a contract. We can’t break a contract. The Legislature, by Constitution, cannot do that, so we’re going to have to figure out how to solve this problem.”

Smith says the state’s PERS debt is so huge that there is no single, simple fix for the problem.

“There’s going to have to be a combination of expense reduction and revenue raising,” he said. “Then, finally, there’s going to have to be a hard conversation that says, ‘Oregon, don’t get in this situation again.’”

The PERS debt is at $25 billion and growing.

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