Gov. John Kitzhaber today alerted legislators to be ready for a special session Sept. 30. His goal is to make further cuts—up to $5 billion—to the Public Employee Retirement System and generate a couple of hundred million dollars with new taxes.
Two things are unclear: First, whether Kitzhaber now has the votes to get that deal done—votes he didn't have during the regular legislative session that ended in July. Second, whether he will also try to make funding the Columbia River Crossing project part of the deal.
Here's the release from Kitzhaber's office:
It’s time to call the question. I have informed Oregon House and Senate leaders to prepare for a potential special legislative session on September 30, because we have a unique opportunity to boost education funding and turn the corner on teacher layoffs and lost school days once and for all.
Time is short. Unless we act now, students returning to school this week will continue to face cuts in the classroom. Even with increased funding this year, few districts have been able to restore all of the teaching positions and school days lost during years of cuts.
The PERS and revenue package we are working on would restore teachers and school days in every district, including adding up to 84 teachers in Beaverton, 45 teachers in Bend-La Pine and 36 teachers and counselors in Salem-Keizer. In John Day, students would see electives restored and Portland could add key support and enrichment staff, including librarians, counselors and PE teachers. From Banks to Eugene to Coquille, districts could buy back school days lost to furloughs, and - most importantly -- do it this year.
A solution is within reach, but it only makes sense to convene the Legislature if it is willing to act. I continue to work with Republican and Democratic leaders on the details of a plan that would combine cost savings from additional PERS reforms to reduce the system’s unfunded liability by a total of $5 billion with $200 million in new revenue. I am also committed to including support for small businesses and low income Oregonians. These are all concepts that have had bipartisan support in the past, and I’m confident we can finalize a balanced plan in coming days.
Oregon is on the right track. But we have unfinished business. I urge the Legislature to come together to invest in Oregon students this year. We need to get it done for Oregon’s children, for Oregon’s economy, for Oregon’s future."