Oregon PERS has made public
the names and benefit amounts of its 110,000 members, after a settlement
agreement between PERS and the Oregonian and Salem Statesman Journal
newspapers was allowed to stand by Marion County Circuit Court Judge Vance Day.
With the release of the
names, the initial hullabaloo is over the people at the top. Former Oregon
Ducks football coach Mike Bellotti tops the list at almost a half-million
dollars a year.
But while AFSCME objected to the release of the information, along with the PERS Coalition and others, having
PERS bare its soul to public scrutiny may provide one benefit: killing the
common misperception that every PERS member retires with an opulent benefit.
Because the real news in
the PERS information release is this: 68 percent of those in the system receive
a benefit of $3,000 a month or less — $36,000 annually. And on the PERS
website, the agency reports that the average PERS retiree receives less than
that — $2,120 per month or $25,436 annually.
"If there is a silver lining
to the release of this information, it's that the public will see that average,
rank-and-file public employees do not receive an overly generous pension," says longtime Oregon AFSCME PERS
lobbyist Mary Botkin. "Not only that, but the vast majority of people actually
retired and receiving benefits are Tier 1 employees. The Tier 2 and 3 (OPSRP)
people in the system (but yet to retire) will do so under significantly reduced benefits."
All PERS retirees have
struggled, said Botkin, to shake a notion dating back to 2001 that everyone who
retires receives an overly generous check each month.
"There was a perfect storm of circumstances early in this
century that saw a small window of opportunity for certain workers who had been
in the system for 30 years to get out at or near 100 percent," said Botkin. "It
happened. But it didn't last long and it wasn't nearly as widespread as the
public thinks it was, yet to this day there are people who believe that every
PERS member retires at 100 percent of his/her final salary.
"If nothing else, this
release of information puts that notion to rest."
PERS is scheduled to release
more details on each member's benefit in March — including final salary,
years of service, retirement date and the method used to calculate the
retirement benefit. The PERS Coalition plans to push the 2012 Oregon
Legislature to exempt names from