Sometimes, it seems we have completely lost our ability to make any impact at all on many of the major issues facing us today. Our system seems broken on so many levels, yet we feel powerless to alter its course. That has to change.
Take situation with the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, for instance. According to a story in The Oregonian this week, PERS will eat 25 to 30 percent of public employers' payroll budgets this year, counting debt service on pension bonds and the 6 percent member contribution that many employers pay.
The average statewide PERS base rate for 2011-13 is 16.3 percent. Locally, the rates are 18.12 percent for the city of McMinnville; 19.48 percent for McMinnville School District and 15.38 percent for Yamhill County. Projections for 2013-15 range from 20.47 percent at the county to 25.83 percent at the school district.
While we don't begrudge a fair retirement package for our public employees, it's difficult for taxpayers to subsidize the guaranteed PERS returns when their own private sector retirement plans are market-based, not guaranteed. Lawmakers must pass meaningful PERS reforms in 2013.
Oregon's land use laws present a different type of quagmire. The original goals of the 1973 legislation were groundbreaking and helped make the state a model in the protection of valuable land.
But the endless appeal process, many times based on minutia in the law, coupled with the inability of the Land Use Board of Appeals to act decisively, have soured many the law's original supporters.
There is some evidence, as we said earlier this month, that land use officials are heeding the public's call. They have launched pilot projects in some counties aimed at more local control.
On an even broader front, there is Oregon's broken system of paying for governmental services. Certainly, significant and long-lasting tax and spending reforms will require more than one session of the Legislature, and we can only hope that such efforts will produce concrete results that Oregonians can embrace.
Whatever plan might arise will require lawmakers, the governor and special interest groups to work together with diligence and mutual respect. If the public then is called on to make tax sacrifices for the greater good of our state, officials must guarantee spending reforms that offset costs.
It's a tall order, but if we wait much longer, a broken system could become irreparable.