The news is filled with fascinating stories:
We have measured the velocity of gravity to be the speed of light, give or take 20 percent. The number of baby boomers causes health care spending to run amok, while the number of baby doctors declines steadily because of outrageous malpractice insurance costs. A new Oregon governor promises to balance the budget without new taxes, and the Legislature is stuck in time while 15 Republicans and 15 Democrats try to select a Senate president.
And all over the state, we are saving our pennies so we can afford to pay Bill Korach a princely pension for the rest of his life.
Korach surely is a talented, responsible and committed career public servant. He was thrust into the limelight this week by Oregonian columnist David Reinhard, who made the Lake Oswego school superintendent a pinup for PERS reform.
At age 57, making $113,000 per year, Korach could retire today with a handsome annual pension of $134,000 from Oregon's Public Employee Retirement System. That's 119 percent of current salary, for life. Plus cost-of-living adjustments. Plus Social Security.
Lake Oswego doesn't want Korach to retire just yet, so the board promised him immunity from any PERS reforms the Legislature might enact. Of course they had to learn the PERS payoff figure for Korach, and now we all know it.
Next budget year, local governments will cut services significantly due to skyrocketing payments into the PERS fund. Pension payments will increase an estimated $490,000 for Yamhill County, an estimated $453,000 for the city of McMinnville and somewhere between $500,000 and $1.2 million for School District 40.
National reports bemoan the crisis of state government deficits across the land. No other state, however, can match the $15 billion "unfunded liability" of Oregon's public pension plan, created by a combination of stock market losses and irresponsible fund management.
It's the kind of situation that caused Howard Beale, in the movie "Network," to tell his listeners: "I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs! I want you to get up right now, and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!'"
Yes, we know how fast gravity travels. If only PERS reform would go half as fast!
Jeb Bladine is editor and publisher of the News-Register.