Changes to Oregon public pension benefits upheld

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the reductions in public employee pension benefits that state lawmakers passed last year to help address the state’s pension funding deficit and rein in the escalating pension costs.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that nine public employees filed suit last August seeking to overturn two benefit reductions the Legislature made: requiring employees to share a small portion of the cost of their pension benefits, and putting a $195,000 limit on the final salary used in some benefit calculations.

Their lawyers argued that the changes constituted an impairment of contract under the state and federal constitutions, a “taking without just compensation” and a breach of public employees’ PERS contract rights.

In a unanimous decision, the court rejected those arguments, sticking with the principle it established in its 2015 decision on the last round of legal wrangling over PERS: the Legislature is entitled to change employee retirement benefits prospectively, for future service, but benefits earned on service already rendered are sacrosanct.


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