Gov. Kate Brown recently unveiled giant, golden parachutes for Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, and Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day. It’s the kind of stunt that raises distrust from taxpayers.
Devlin and Ferrioli have been capable legislative leaders almost since they began serving in 1996. Brown nominated them to the Northwest Power & Conservation Council. The federal panel develops a fish and wildlife program and a 20-year regional power plan.
But does the council need expertise in conservation and power or politicians? Brown chose politicians.
Ferrioli told The Oregonian he hopes “to justify the investment.”
Which brings us to money. For the two legislators, the appointment would mean a big boost in pay and in money they get from Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System. If their nominations are approved by the Oregon Senate, they will start taking home an annual salary of $120,000 a year, according to The Oregonian. That’s about five times what they make as legislators. They would get paid through the state, even though it is a federal panel.
Both legislators could see their PERS benefits billow skyward. For instance, Ferrioli already receives a $33,083 annual pension after working half a dozen years for the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs beginning in the late 1970s. That’s more than he ever got paid in annual salary. He is also eligible for a pension based on his service in the Legislature. And if he gets the appointment on the power council, his pension could increase fivefold because final salary is used to calculate the pension contribution. That is about as golden a prize as Brown could give.
Positions on the power council are one of the few appointments Brown can make that come with a six-figure salary. Appointments like these contribute to the uncertainty voters have about any sort of serious commitment to PERS reform. And it feeds into the idea that politics is about scratching the backs of others in power.
Brown is going to need the support of taxpayers on a health care tax vote in January. She also needs support for a carbon tax she wants passed in the February session, perhaps bringing in some $700 million a year. This doesn’t seem to be the way to get it.