Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More on PERS & why Jason Atkinson should win

I got a very interesting email today from Jesse Villarreal, Jr., the founder of PERS Help and a vocal advocate for reforming the public retirement system before it sucks the state dry.

Specifically, Villarreal was responding to criticisms of the governor candidates' forum held last Wednesday, and of Villarreal's support of Jason Atkinson as the gubernatorial candidate with the best plan for PERS reform.

Keep in mind that Villarreal has been trying to work on PERS reform for four years, and works to get accurate and timely information to PERS members without charging for his services. He makes it clear that "I do not like politics or the games involved. I do not understand why if I show up with a box of factual information . . . why or how we can't get PERS fixed."

That said, he hosted the forum with State Rep. Linda Flores (R-Clackamas) to allow the candidates to vocalize their positions on PERS. Atkinson, Kevin Mannix and Ron Saxton were invited, but only Atkinson and Mannix showed up. Villarreal said Saxton sent as many as four representatives to the forum, but they "said nothing." Atkinson and Mannix were given identical questions, and Mannix was actually allowed more time to answer each question, he said.

As far as a recap of the candidates' plans: Mannix's plan would take five years and at least $3 million to implement, but is still "incomplete and leaves the problems of PERS in place," Villarreal said.

Conversely, Atkinson’s plan would take seven months and cost $300,000, yet it is "comprehensive, protects members and taxpayers from the legislature, PERS agency, PERS Board and the Oregon Investment Council. It is a plan that will save taxpayers up to $500 million annually while protecting member’s earned benefits."

Saxton's plan? It turns out he doesn't have one, Villarreal said. Villarreal has been accused of supporting Atkinson's plan because he's campaigning for Atkinson, but he responded, "The only misrepresentation that was discovered as a result of the PERS Forum was to learn about a candidate’s claim to have a plan to reform PERS, to claim knowledge of a plan and in reality to be caught with neither."

Why does Villarreal think so highly of Atkinson? He said Atkinson worked on several PERS-related bills during the last session, all of which were stopped by Sen. Kate Brown and Gov. Kulongoski.

"When I heard Atkinson announcing his plans to run for Governor I knew I could trust him because of all his efforts to reform PERS during the regular session," Villarreal said.

"I have literally grabbed reporters at the capitol to get this information out to the public. Reporters continue to claim this issue is too complex for the general public. Atkinson has taken the time and learned the nuances of the plan. He is the only candidate that has a detailed strategy to improve PERS."


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