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SALEM -- The Oregon Senate voted 16-13 Thursday in favor of a Democratic plan to cut pension benefits for retired government workers.

The measure was expected to save state and local governments about $460 million over the next two years, mostly by reducing cost-of-living increases for retirees earning more than $20,000 a year. Democrats also wanted the pension system to delay $350 million worth of taxpayer contributions into future budget cycles.

The measure passed in a party-line vote over vehement opposition from Republicans, who said the Democratic measure falls far short of the savings needed to stabilize the pension system's rising cost to taxpayers.

Senate Bill 822 has become known as the 'PERS Lite' bill because of the weak set of reforms it implements and the minimal savings it achieves and passes on to the classroom, said Republican spokesman Michael Gay. What s more, Senate Bill 822 employs a 'skip-a-payment' scheme by moving more than $350 million of PERS payments from this budget cycle to the next, effectively borrowing money.

Democrats said the measure would allow more spending on education.

This bill threads the needle, said Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin). It eases increases in PERS payments for employers, protects lower and middle income retirees and will help make it possible to increase our investment in K-12 schools by $1 billion in the next biennium.

Public employee unions said the measure would illegally break a contract between the state and its workers.

Senate Bill 822 now moves to the Oregon House.

Click to read the text of the bill

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