Dear OEA Members,
Today the Oregon House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1049, which will affect retirement benefits for educators and most members of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). It was extremely close. Initially the vote was 31-29, defending against the cuts. But after the Speaker paused the vote and under immense political pressure, two representatives changed their votes and the bill passed. Click here to see how your lawmaker voted.
This is incredibly disappointing. Our lobby team, leaders, members, and coalition partners have done everything we can to stop these cuts. We were able to lessen the impacts, but this bill still passed.
For years we have fought hard against PERS cuts. You can’t improve schools by making cuts to educators’ benefits -- the legislature has this one very wrong.
We were successful in killing bills that would have created much deeper cuts this session, and were able to get SB 1049 amended to eliminate some of the most egregious benefit cuts, but this is still an unnecessary and ridiculous hit to the dedicated individuals who serve our students and our state. I want to thank each and every educator who called, emailed, marched and visited their lawmakers. It truly did make a difference.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOUR RETIREMENT:
By no means are any cuts acceptable, but thanks to your efforts against deeper cuts, the total retirement reduction in SB 1049 will be between 1-2.5% of total benefit for people who work 30 years in public service. People who work fewer years will see a smaller reduction. The redirection of IAP contributions is predicted to end after 14 years, and educators will have the option of making additional contributions to their own IAP to offset the losses. One silver lining: SB 1049 will freeze the amount that school districts pay as a percentage of payroll to 26%, which will ease school budgets.
For educators who already earn 22% less than we would in the private sector, that is a significant cut and the OEA bargaining teams are ready to negotiate those losses back in our next contracts.
Please stay engaged with your union bargaining team and stay tuned for updates as we work locally to restore these benefits lost.
We will be fighting these cuts in court. We have an excellent legal team that has won significant court battles for us in the past. Lawmakers wrote this bill anticipating that we would sue, so it is carefully crafted to withstand a challenge, but I believe we have a strong case because SB 1049 opens up many new legal issues.
Remain engaged in the legislative session. House Bill 3075 will be moving soon, which would restore hard-earned health care benefits for educators and save school districts money. Click here to learn more & contact your lawmakers.
This is not the outcome we wanted or worked so hard for, but I firmly believe that we will make up these losses at the bargaining table. OEA has an FAQ on the changes here.
We will be sending more detailed information about how SB 1049 affects you and our efforts to protect benefits in the weeks and months to come.
High School English Teacher
President of the Oregon Education Association