Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Compensation and PERS

Here is the problem with studies that look at PERS in isolation like the one by PSU that is featured in today's Oregonian: it is only one piece of compensation.  Oregon for many years appears to have saved on wage bills by shifting compensation more heavily to retirement.  This is, of course, problematic when it comes time to pay for the retirement of its workers.  It makes the accountants are happy at the time because the books balance and the unfunded liability stays hidden.

I can only speak for myself but when I took the job at Oregon State I had a job offer in hand for 20% more from a certain state to the south.  Oregon's generous benefits helped close the gap and the compensating wage differential meant that I was happy in the end to accept less to live in the state of my choice.  I am Tier III so don't get mad at me by the way.

To retroactively change the terms of the contract that workers agreed to at the time is not acceptable in my mind.  Economically the sanctity of contracts must be preserved. Going forward however, it would be better for Oregon to get more in line and shift more towards wages and away from defined benefits.    


Dann Cutter said...

Curious - would you have still taken the job knowing the cuts and treatment that the Econ department at OSU would take over the subsequent years?

Patrick Emerson said...

Yes, I would. But location for me was and is hugely important. I am in the minority, however, most of my contemporaries have left for greener pastures.

That said, it is important to have perspective about all of this and not get too focused on oneself. I adore Oregon and want to see it thrive and part of that is wanting what is best for its students, so in the end I want to make OSU as good a place as I can for the students it enrolls.

At public universities it is always a struggle but I believe both morally and intellectually in public education and I don't want to abandon it.