October 15th, 2014
One question sat firmly at the heart of Tuesday's Supreme Court arguments over cuts to the Public Employees Retirement System: What does it mean to make a promise?
Must it last forever? Can its terms be altered to accommodate time and circumstance? Is it necessarily a "promise" to simply say something is planned to happen?
The issue at hand was the cost-of-living adjustment provided to PERS retirees. Most retirees had received a 2 percent COLA every year until the Oregon Legislature passed two laws last year that reduced it.
The new COLA is calculated with a series of graduated levels much like inverted tax brackets. Lower income brackets receive a larger increase, and the highest brackets receive a smaller one.
Public employees sued immediately after the bills that created this new law, Senate Bills 822 and 861, were passed in 2013.