Some former public employees who retired with overly generous pensions are upset that last week's Supreme Court ruling will reduce their monthly checks. As added insult, they also must return certain "overpayments" that they received.
They should be upset at former members of the Public Employees Retirement Service board, who improperly credited billions of dollars to individual retirement accounts instead of putting it into reserves. They should be upset that their union representatives continue to pursue legal action related to PERS.
The stock market was soaring six years ago and, despite clear warnings of future consequences, the PERS board gave 20-plus percent earnings to retirement plan participants. The law requires only 8 percent. That blunder was magnified when subsequent earnings were applied to bloated retirement accounts. When the stock market foundered, PERS was left with $17 billion in unfunded liabilities.
PERS rates charged to state and local governments skyrocketed, and those rates absorb an outlandish share of most public budgets. Legislative action helped in 2003, but some of those mandated savings were overturned by a Supreme Court decision.
This latest court action upholds a Marion County Circuit Court ruling that PERS acted irresponsibly and illegally when it inflated those retirement accounts. Money was taken illegally, and now some of it must be returned - that reality must override any hand-wringing about the impact on about 36,000 former public employees who left their jobs after April 2000.
Current employees won't see much change. They, too, will have their accounts relieved of the overpayments, but those losses are offset by the March Supreme Court decision that cancelled two of the Legislature's reform measures.
Pending calculations will determine how much each retiree will be cut, the amount each will be expected to repay and when it's due. Meanwhile, public employee unions are showing how little they have learned.
Oregonians are tired of seeing public services decline while government devotes more and more money to employee benefits. The unions risk major public backlash if they continue the legal battle related to PERS pension payments.
After all, if anyone deserves to be upset, it is the taxpayers of Oregon.