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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.

Kitzhaber Takes Push For Public Pension, Tax Increase Package On The Road

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is hitting the road with his push for additional legislative action to curb public pension costs. The Democrat visited with local leaders in Hillsboro Friday.

The campaign began on the same day the board that oversees Oregon public pensions considered a proposal that could further increase the cost of funding the pension system.

Oregon lawmakers tried but ultimately came up short in a late-session attempt to pass a tax hike paired with a cut to public pension benefits. Governor John Kitzhaber says he still wants lawmakers to act and has been talking up a possible special session to get it done.

But the Democrat would need to convince a few more lawmakers to vote for the plan. So he's enlisting the help of education and business officials.

The pitch resonated with Hillsboro School Board Chair Kim Strelchun. She says the amount the district pays in public pension costs has been on the rise.

"And what that has really meant is layoffs and cut school days,” Strelchun says.

Lawmakers did pass some cuts to public pensions. But much of that savings could be in jeopardy. The board that governs the system is in the process of revising downward its earnings projections for the pension fund. The difference would have to be made up by government agencies.