The Associated Press
SALEM State legislators no longer would be in the present state pension system and would be offered a less generous 401(k)-style plan under a bill that approved by a House panel.
Lawmakers now in the Public Employees Retirement System could keep those accounts and their accrued retirement benefits. But once their terms end, they'd go into a new 401(k) plan along with newly elected legislators.
"It removes any inherent conflict of interest of us being part of the PERS plan," said House Majority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend.
Knopp also is chairman of the House PERS Committee, which on Thursday cleared the measure for a vote by the full House.
Knopp is leading the effort to reform the troubled pension system, which faces a long-term shortfall now estimated at $16 billion.
Under the bill, the state would contribute 6 percent of lawmakers' salaries to accounts with a mix of investments chosen by the legislator. Retirement benefits would depend on how well the investments performed in the market.
Lawmakers currently are paid $15,396 a year. Knopp said most of them end up drawing PERS benefits of only $100 to $150 a month. Their participation in PERS, however, has been a sore point with the public, he said.
Some legislators have been able to greatly increase their PERS pensions by moving to full-time state or local government jobs after leaving office. They took advantage of rules that in some cases link benefits to the three highest years of salary.
Knopp spokeswoman Fawn McNeely said the bill would save the state $202,000 in the 2003-05 budget.
The only person testifying against the bill was Mary Botkin, lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
She said the change could prevent some good candidates from running for the Legislature.