Oregon task force brainstorms ways to lessen pension deficit
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's special task force is looking at ways to ensure the state has enough money to pay pensions for eligible state employees amid a multi-billion-dollar pension fund deficit.
The state is considering commercializing its state-run liquor system, pulling money from public reserves or imposing new surcharges of up to 10 percent on all state-issued permits, licenses and registrations, The Register-Guard reported Tuesday.
The advisory task force, made up of seven private- and public-sector executives, is charged with drafting a plan to take $5 billion off the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System's $24.5 billion unfunded liability without touching government workers' retirement benefits.
The task force stressed that Oregon school districts, local governments and universities should take a greater stake in paying down individual pension unfunded liability.
"I know some of these things are very sensitive," said Don Blair, a former Nike chief financial officer. "I think that's unavoidable."
The task force is floating a new state tax of between 1 percent and 10 percent on liquor sales with the proceeds between $10 million and $50 million being dedicated to the pension fund.
The task force also is looking at state government's two big reserve funds the Rainy Day and Education Stability funds that currently contain more than a combined $1 billion. Between $100 million and $500 million of that could be used for a pension down payment.
Traditionally, however, those funds have been left untouched in good times, so the state can tap them to temper budget cuts during downturns.
"None of our choices are free from downsides," task force member and former state agency director Cory Streisinger said.