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Brown Weighing Moves to Reduce School Pension Costs

Gov. Kate Brown is reportedly considering selling the state's workers compensation insurance corporation or tapping its substantial capital surplus to hold down future pension costs for school districts around the state.

Posted: Feb 19, 2019 11:45 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown is reportedly considering selling the state's workers compensation insurance corporation or tapping its substantial capital surplus to hold down future pension costs for school districts around the state.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that according to documents it obtained via a public records request the idea is still tentative, and it's not clear it would raise enough money to accomplish the goal on its own.

Chris Pair, a spokesman for the governor's office, said Monday "our office will not be providing comment."

The proposal to tap SAIF, the state's 100-year-old employer-funded workers compensation agency, was initially floated in 2017 by a task force Brown set up to look for ways to reduce PERS' huge unfunded liability. That liability now stands at about $26.6 billion.

At the time, the idea of selling SAIF or tapping its surplus was staunchly opposed in some quarters of the business community. Oregon businesses enjoy some of the cheapest workers compensation rates in the country, and employers who are policyholders of SAIF receive large annual dividends from investment earnings on the capital surplus that the governor may look to tap.

Transferring that surplus or selling the company might raise costs for workmen's compensation, erasing one of the few competitive advantages that Oregon offers business, opponents have said.

At the same time, schools, municipalities and public agencies around the state face large pension debts and the relentless cost increases they are driving. Collectively, school districts have a funding deficit with PERS of more than $9 billion. They face a $375 million increase in their pension costs in the next two-year budget cycle and potentially much larger cost increases in the following biennium

This at a time when Brown has been promising to increase school funding to lengthen the school year, bring down class sizes and address Oregon's high school graduation rates, which are the second lowest in the country. Critics have said it would be a mistake to pump billions more into schools when much of that money would go to increased pension costs, not to the classroom.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 397421

Reported Deaths: 5299
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah61160856
Washington42725408
Marion40378520
Clackamas33323391
Lane30531364
Jackson25267363
Deschutes24034198
Umatilla15178184
Linn15004184
Douglas13635295
Josephine10388249
Yamhill9916145
Klamath9144153
Polk8384103
Benton624440
Malheur594093
Coos5854109
Columbia442156
Jefferson427268
Lincoln369155
Crook345558
Union341857
Wasco320747
Clatsop265835
Baker223133
Tillamook220646
Hood River218637
Morrow198925
Curry194639
Harney121933
Grant109216
Lake106418
Wallowa76513
Sherman1953
Gilliam1854
Wheeler1161
Unassigned00

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Cases: 5128725

Reported Deaths: 74953
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Los Angeles153845127262
San Diego4104514351
Riverside3912955388
San Bernardino3784085998
Orange3370455783
Sacramento1699162462
Kern1590231841
Fresno1581872284
Santa Clara1536961933
Alameda1262241514
San Joaquin1084911837
Ventura1049251194
Contra Costa1046451058
Stanislaus923321436
Tulare869791102
San Francisco57458674
San Mateo56861631
Monterey52973626
Solano48014360
Santa Barbara47846555
Merced45506672
Sonoma43609414
Placer42736473
Imperial39148778
Kings35547369
San Luis Obispo31803360
Madera26511315
Shasta26353465
Butte25690320
Santa Cruz22540224
Yolo21792263
Marin18728249
El Dorado18544168
Sutter14691186
Napa13501107
Yuba1084791
Humboldt10360119
Tehama10329133
Nevada10187105
Mendocino873799
Lassen801259
San Benito793980
Tuolumne782691
Lake7073113
Amador583267
Siskiyou480757
Glenn460336
Calaveras449988
Del Norte380442
Colusa329821
Inyo259446
Plumas19679
Mono19274
Mariposa163818
Trinity102117
Modoc7956
Unassigned3820
Sierra2210
Alpine1080
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