What's the price tag on Measure 26-93?
You can't argue with fair. Fair is good. Equitable is excellent.
Play fair. It's only fair. Fair and square. Fair is fair. Fair and balan... whoops.
Anyway, we all want to do the right thing, and that means doing what's fair. And the folks who have placed before us City of Portland Ballot Measure 26-93 know that's how we all feel. Thus, their sales pitch: This measure is fair.
It requires the city to provide medical benefits from its police and fire disability system for work-related injuries after an injured officer retires, for the rest of his or her life. Under current law, not all such officers get such benefits. Only those whose injury causes them to retire immediately get reimbursed for life for their medical bills stemming from work-related injuries. Any who return to work after recovering from the injury get such coverage while they're still working, but not after they retire.
The arguments in favor are listed in the mini-voters' pamphlet that came in the same envelope as our ballot the other day: The current rules create a disincentive for injured officers to come back to work, and most other workers in the state don't have such a restriction -- they get reimbursed for medical and hospital expenses arising from a work-related injury for life, even if they get back on the job.
And besides, the current setup's... unfair.
The City Council wants the change. The police and firefighters' unions want it, too. (Is that redundant?) And no one is speaking out against it.
No, I'm not going to break the ice in that regard, but I do have a few questions that no one's answering too clearly, at least not in what I've been reading about this:
1. How much is this going to cost? The voter's pamphlet states, "The monthly cost to the average residential property tax bill is estimated to be 92 cents." Gee, guys, why not say "3 cents a day"? "An eighth of a cent an hour!" How about a total number?
2. Does the 92 cents take into account potential savings on disability payments that won't have to be made when marginally disabled officers flock back to active duty? If so, what is the cost without those savings?
3. How many officers are currently out there refusing to come back to work even though they could, because they'll lose medical benefits?
4. The voters' pamphlet arguments assert that injured officers have no way to pay their post-retirement medical bills. But aren't retired officers eligible to buy medical insurance, through the city, through Medicare, or both? Wouldn't that insurance cover their on-the-job medical problems?
5. Has the city figured out yet what its unfunded actuarial liability is for post-retirement health care benefits? It recently said it had actuaries working on generating that number, which has never been made public before. Any chance we could hear what it is before we vote on this?
As I say, we all want to do what's fair. But it would also be nice to know what the heck we're going to have to pay, and what we're getting.