During a meeting this past Sunday with the Democratic Governor and the SEIU503 CAPE Committee (and invited Board members) a major issue for many were his attacks on PERS. Those attacks target current PERS Retirees. One thought kept going through my head. When Paul Ryan and the Republicans started going after Social Security and Medicare they always had the caveat that these changes would not affect current recipients of these programs. But now a Democratic Governor starts off planning to cut the 2% COLAS of current retirees as well as the monthly checks of retirees who dare to move beyond the Oregon border.
The COLA cuts would be only for the high end PERS recipients, which according to Dr. Kitzhaber are those who get PERS checks totaling $24,000 a year. Maybe the Governor does not think inflation will ever reach 2% or maybe he doesn't know what it means to be on a fixed income and have prices of everything rise or maybe he just doesn't care. I figured I was going to be below his threshold but a friend pointed out to me that I was looking at my net income and he would be looking at my gross so for sure no more 2% COLA for me.
Penalizing retirees for moving out of state is just draconian. I am sure there will be no equivalent penalty for capitalists moving their company(s) to Bangladesh. Of course if these unfortunate ones who will get a cut in their monthly check also happen to make over $24,000 a year it will be double punishment from Oregon.
When speaking to our members, many of whom spent time and money getting this guy elected, he brought up another idea which targets retirees as well as others. He wants to get rid of the State Tax Medical Deduction. This deduction helps workers when they retire. At retirement your income always goes down and at the same time generally the individual retiree must now pay Health Insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, etc. This tax deduction has helped many cope until they qualify for Medicare. In my case I can stay in my home because my refund helps pay my property taxes. Of course this health insurance "inflation rate" always increases much more than 2% every year. But Kitzhaber doesn't think there will be any inflation.
So this makes it a triple whammy against PERS recipients. Too bad we couldn't make that point during the orchestrated questions at the CAPE Board Meeting. No retirees were chosen to ask questions. Of course the Governor only wants to take away the Health Insurance Deduction from upper income Oregonians. But now we know he thinks that $24,000 a year is way up there!
The meeting itself was surreal. With members fawning over the Governor (not the retirees present, we have history). At the beginning the officers were telling him how "honored" and "privileged" we were to have his presence at the meeting. But nothing could compare to those few members rushing up to have their pictures taken with him.
There were not very many Board members or rank and file who showed up. I think they were making their statement. If this was the beginning of the Fight Back Year it is supposed to be it's going to be those who stayed home on Sunday who will make it happen.