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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.

Oregon Governor Signs Executive Order On Collective Bargaining

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
File photo. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order Thursday that addresses PERS costs, state employee compensation bargaining, and debt collection.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed an executive order aimed at improving the way the state negotiates with its unionized workers.

The order establishes that money set aside for collective bargaining will now include salary increases and health care costs.

Until now, that so-called "salary pot" only included cost of living increases.

The change could make it easier for lawmakers to factor in the total cost of employees when they work on state agency budgets.

Brown also announced that she's creating a task force to come up with ways to reel in the costs of Oregon's public employee pension system. She said the task force will explore ways to pay down as much as $5 billion in unfunded PERS liabilities.

How would the state raise that much cash? By potentially selling off billions of dollars’ worth of state assets.

“A few items are off the table,” Brown said. “We will not be privatizing prisons, nor will we be selling state parks or state forests.”

The moves come as the state faces a $1.6 billion shortfall heading into the upcoming budget cycle.