Cities, school districts and counties are starting on their 2005-06 budgets, again without a glimmer of their obligations for PERS retirement. That's indefensible; Supreme Court findings are overdue.
The state Supreme Court in July heard a challenge to the Legislature's PERS reform. Before that, in April, they received the report from their "special master," a Court of Appeals judge appointed more than a year ago to investigate legal issues in the complex inter-related cases and make findings of fact. His 120-page report appears on the Supreme Court website.
All told, eight cases are before the justices. Some were filed by employees' unions, another by Eugene and other jurisdictions. One out of Marion County challenges a judge's rulings that ordered updating the actuarial tables and changing other practices, most of which was incorporated in the legislative reform that also is challenged. That case was not heard until 10 days ago, but it's almost identical to others.
Costs to taxpayers have soared since the former PERS board admitted a huge deficit in the amount needed to fund pensions of future retirees. Its formulas had employees retiring with amounts matching and exceeding their salaries. There's a new director and a new board, but they can't reverse the damage from foregoing an adequate system reserve from 1979-2003.
Many local jurisdictions have tucked revenue into special budget accounts in case the Legislature's PERS reform provisions are overturned. It's money that could have gone to services, including schools, in a time of decreasing revenues. No one wants to do it another year.
The issues are complicated, we grant, but it's now mid-November and time for the justices to come up with a ruling on such a vital matter. Someone should light a fire under them.
Soon, their plates likely will be filled even more with equally divisive challenges - constitutionality of Measure 36's same-sex marriage amendment; issues related to passage of Measure 37, the new pay-up or waive land-use regulations law.
The sooner that justices provide a definitive answer on PERS, the better for everyone.