How are we going to pay for PERS?
It’s the question that almost every political conversation in Oregon revolves around these days, and the next week could go a long way to revealing the answer.
PERS is the pension system for Oregon’s public employees, which include teachers, police officers, county clerks, and college football coaches.
Back in the ’60s and ’70s, Oregon made some very generous promises to PERS recipients about how much they’d get paid during retirement.
Some of those promises were smart (yay for teachers not retiring into poverty), some were stupid (boo for retired football coaches getting $558,000 annual payouts), but all of them were based on unrealistic projections about the state’s ability to pay up.
Turns out you can’t rely on the stock market to deliver eight percent returns every year for a half-century, so now the state is having to shake out sofa cushions in search of $26 billion, and it’s not going well.
So that’s how we got here.
Now the question is what happens next. The state Legislature seems committed to tackling the issue before the session ends on June 30, and for boring procedural reasons, some big decisions have to be made ASAP.
Do we pay for PERS by diverting the kicker tax rebate? By asking current public employees to pay more? By using Oregon Lottery funds? By hosting the world’s biggest bake sale?
Where things land will have a huge impact on our state’s ability to do everything from fill potholes to invest in clean energy.
Confused yet? If so, shoot us a note. We’re lining up a Q&A next week with a reader who knows more than is doctor-recommended about these issues, and we’re happy to get answers to all your burning questions. 👍
In other news…
House prices are falling in the Portland area, but only for higher-end homes. The rest of the market is still trending more expensive, just not as fast as before. (OregonLive)
The artist behind those cartoon cutouts we featured yesterday is feeling the love on Reddit. “Not sure if total waste of time or work of art,” Mike Bennett wrote, “[but] either way, you guys inspired me to make more!” (Reddit)
A vintage-video-game bar opened in Northeast Portland yesterday, and its hotdog menu looks pretty fantastic. (Eater)
🌿 Through Saturday: Geek out on the art and science of cannabis at Willamette Week’s Cultivation Classic (SE | Buckman)
🗣️ Wednesday, May 22: Hear a Harvard professor discuss journalism and justice with Oregon Humanities (NE | Alberta)
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🎸 See Neil Young perform solo (Downtown)
🌈 Celebrate love across cultures (SW | Goose Hollow)
🥓 Eat brunch at OMSI After Dark (SE | Central Eastside)
🎶 Catch a Daft Punk tribute show (SE | Central Eastside)
🚲 Watch films about biking – through Sunday (NE | Hollywood)
💃 Learn how to swing dance – through Sunday (SE | Burnside)
🍺 Get $1 pours of Widmer Hefe (NE | Albina)
🌈 Shop at a rainbow night market (NE | Mississippi)
🍄 Hear Michael Pollan talk psychedelics (Downtown)
🎲 Play board games at a game summit (NE | Sumner)
📖 Join a choose-your-own-adventure reading (NW | Pearl)
🕺 Hit the dance floor at the final Portland’s Prom (NW | Old Town)
🎉 Check out the Kenton Street Fair (N | Kenton)
🍨 Enjoy shave ice at a local pop-up (NW | Pearl)
🚲 Explore Southeast on two wheels (Multiple locations)
💿 Get help making it in the music biz (SE | Central Eastside)
📚 Catch Jill Biden’s reading at Powell’s (Beaverton)
👻 Learn the spooky lore of the White Eagle (NE | Albina)
🍷 Eat Polish food and dance the polka (SE | Buckman)
🎶 See Portland’s hottest soul band at a benefit show (NE | Dekum)
💻 Network with women in tech (NW | Pearl)
🎭 Play improv comedy games (NE | Piedmont)
💫 Rock out to a Dandy Warhols set (SE | Central Eastside)
Even if you can’t afford $200 tickets, you can still watch the Blazers games with other die-hard fans this weekend.
Here’s Eater’s list of local bars that will have basketball on the TV and food and drink specials on the menu.
We hope there’s plenty to cheer about. Either way, we’ll see you Monday. ✌️