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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Union-Backed Lawsuit Seeks To Overturn Pension Cuts

Public employee unions have followed through with their threat to challenge legislatively-approved cuts to public pensions. A union-backed lawsuit, filed this week, seeks to overturn the new law.

Unions representing many of Oregon's public employees have said all along that they would challenge the new cost-cutting policy. With that in mind, lawmakers have already fast-tracked any legal challenges directly to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Attorney Greg Hartman filed the suit on behalf of 13 current and past employees of state and local governments in Oregon. He says the public pension cuts signed into law in May violate the Oregon Constitution. "When the legislature made a contract, they stated very specifically in the statute that people were entitled to get a COLA, a cost of living increase, in a certain amount."

The new pension law cuts that amount for people with annual pensions above $20,000. Lawmakers said the cuts were needed to reduce expensive pension costs for state agencies, schools and local governments.

Separately, two other retired public employees have also filed lawsuits to overturn the law.

A spokesman for Governor John Kitzhaber says the Democrat is confident the court will uphold the pension cuts.

On the Web:

SB 822: Public employee retirement - Oregon Legislature 
PERS Coalition lawsuit - Bennett Hartman Morris & Kaplan