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In last Friday’s Gazette-Times, M. Boyd Wilcox had a thoughtful “As I See It” column on solving the financial issues associated with the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System. He offered, kindly, that he’d be willing to give back a percentage of his $1,400 monthly  PERS retirement and said if all PERS folks gave something back, it would solve the financial issues facing our state. 

Well, that might solve the numbers issue, but it wouldn’t solve the moral and ethical problems that PERS has. And my two suggestions would be more effective financially and also would solve the moral problems, as well.

1. The PERS funding formula has no maximum. No cut-off point. People are taking tens of thousands of dollars per month from PERS. More than 130 people are getting 10 times what Boyd gets. Football coach Mike Bellotti gets over $46,000 per month, and he is only the third-highest PERS recipient. Creating a reasonable maximum, say $5,000 a month, would solve the financial problem, as well as the moral problem, of people who have made the most getting the most. Why should someone who is already a millionaire also receive millions in retirement, when others have real needs? It defies both logic and morality.

2. PERS allows recipients to claim privately earned money along with their public salaries. So, picking on Bellotti again, he is allowed to add the millions he received from ESPN to the millions he received from the University of Oregon to determine his retirement plan. Many others are doing the same. Disallowing this double-dipping would also go a long way toward solving the financial problems of PERS, while bringing some equality and ethics into the system.

The problem with PERS is not the thousands of police officers, teachers, firefighters, lab techs, librarians, computer techs, secretaries, school counselors and social workers who get a reasonable amount in retirement. The problem is the same problem all retirement plans have: Giving unlimited resources to those who already have great resources. That’s unnecessary and stretches reasonable boundaries of morality.

Mark Weiss

Philomath (Jan. 4)

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