SALEM -- Oregon lawmakers gathered in Salem Monday and got an earful about their plans to cut some money from the Public Employee Retirement System.
The lawmakers gathered for a special session aimed at cutting costs and raising taxes to support schools.
The session has been touted as a grand compromise aimed at raising revenue while reducing the state’s pension obligations. The governor wants to limit cost of living increases for retirees while taxing cigarettes and taking away some tax deductions for couples making $200,000.
A total of five bills are working their way through the system right now. One of them would give an extra $100 million to schools and spread another $91 million around to various state agencies. Another bill would restrict Oregon counties from writing their own regulations on genetically modified crops.
Backstory: Special session to reform PERS, help schools
Gov. Kitzhaber has said that the legislature must pass all five bills. If even a single bill fails, Kitzhaber has said he will veto the rest.
PERS changes are among the most controversial. Retirees gathered in Salem to voice their opinion about the bill.
“I was furious and I told them I was furious and any hapless lawmaker who walks these halls should probably steer clear,” said retired administrative assistant Rosalie Pedroza. “Because I am really mad about it.”
Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem) said that difficult choices have to be made.
“It would be wonderful if we were back in the '90s,” Winters said. “The '90s were good. We had a robust economy. We had jobs and what have you. But that’s not where we are in 2013 and we’ve had to come together as legislators to make some really hard, tough decisions.”
The governor had wanted a one-day special session. But by late afternoon Monday, it was clear that the session would extend to Tuesday afternoon and possibly Wednesday. The Associated Press reported that senior lawmakers remained optimistic that they can still keep the complex deal together.
KGW Reporter Pat Dooris contributed to this report