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Governor's answer to PERS woes? Put a task force on it

Group's mission is to reduce $22 billion unfunded liability by $5 billion.

A new task force is part of the governor's strategy when it comes to a $22 billion problem facing the state, and local governments and school districts throughout: the unfunded actuarial liability in the state's Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

This week, the governor announced a seven-member task force. Their mission: find ways to reduce the unfunded liability by $5 billion. The group includes:

• Donald W. Blair, former executive vice president and CFO for Nike.

• Monica Enand, CEO of Zapproved, a Portland tech company.

• Lawrence J. Furnstahl, executive vIce president and CFO of OHSU.

• Bob Livingston, a longtime Salem firefighter and member of the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council.

• Rick Miller, founder and chairman of Avamere Group, a senior care and housing provider; and the co-founder of private equity firm Rogue Venture Partners.

• Cory Streisinger, former head of the Department of Consumer and Business Services and former legal counsel to former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

• Charles Wilhoite, managing director with Willamette Management Associates, a consulting firm, who also sits on various boards, including the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Portland Branch.

Ideas for addressing the problem range from selling off state assets to "compelling local employers to dedicate one-time and unexpected funds to buying down their PERS liability."

Senate Republicans were quick to criticize the task force approach. In a statement, Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Beatty, argued the state's credit rating could go down as a result of inaction on PERS.

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle indicated an interest in addressing PERS at the beginning of the legislative session — at least publicly — but it appears those efforts have stalled.

In a press conference last week, Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, D-Portland, indicated she sought to keep her cards on possible changes to PERS close to the vest for the time being.