By Jeb Bladine
Of the News-Register
Where's the outrage? Where's the backlash? How can Oregonians, and beleaguered taxpayers in other states, stop current excesses in public pension payments?
For now, the respective answers are: There isn't any; there won't be one; we can't. Instead, we'll either dig deeper to pay more taxes, or we'll forego important services while public budgets keep paying, and paying, and paying.
Thanks to The Oregonian and Statesman-Journal newspapers, we now have some details about how much we're paying and to whom.
We'll keep paying Mike Bellotti - former University of Oregon football coach and athletic director - $500,000 a year. (I rounded that up by $4,000, but don't forget his cost-of-living increases.)
We'll keep paying four former leaders of Oregon Health & Science University annual amounts ranging from $377,500 down to a paltry $234,000.
Three other former University of Oregon leaders - two professors and a president - receive annual pensions that range from $236,000 to $252,000.
Rounding out the all-education Top 10 of Oregon's Public Employee Retirement System retirees are a former Portland Public Schools human resources director ($258,000), and the long-time superintendent of Lake Oswego schools ($241,000).
These numbers are not the norm, but PERS pension rolls include 837 people earning more than $100,000 in annual benefits - for life, with COLA increases.
Naming names can be sensitive, so I'm sticking to job descriptions, with the exception of coach Bellotti. He gets special recognition because he's No. 1 by such a large margin and because his pension defies any definition of social or political propriety.
Big-money college sports, bolstered by millions from athletic boosters, pay inordinate sums of money to top coaches. OK, some say, but that's no reason to saddle us taxpayers with financing lifetime largesse.
Every strong expression of indignation toward PERS needs to recognize that tens of thousands of PERS beneficiaries receive pensions ranging from modest to comfortable, all within the original intent of Oregon's admittedly generous pension laws. But far too many people, albeit through no fault of their own, receive exorbitant sums from a system perverted by its one-time managers.
Accessible databases now display names and pension amounts for 105,000 PERS retirees, causing some to accuse the two daily newspapers of conducting a "witch hunt" against pensioners. In March, even more detailed information will be released.
Will resulting public outrage cause change? Don't count on it.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at email@example.com or 503-687-1223.