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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 22, 2007 8:43 AM. The previous post in this blog was Super-creepy transit-oriented burglary. The next post in this blog is Got Gocco?. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

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.

Comments (6)

That little post-retirement health care thingy might have some impact on the long-term debt numbers, no?

Would it, should it, only apply to new hires, to be fair?

What's that saying? Oh yeah, NO....NEW....TAXES....

At least as long as they continue to spend as they have been for the last.... well as long as I can remember...

I think it would be more just to exchange a lower wage rate for police and fire employees in exchange for this reimbursement of medical costs. Police and fire employees are already paid a wage rate to compensate for the riskiness of their occupation. By adding additional reimbursement for medical, the dollar value of risk reflected in current wages is lowered, at least to a certain degree. That said, I think I'll abstain from this measure.

No special treatment for govern-mental employees. I can't have it neither can you. No, no, hell no.

* ALERT * * ALERT *
I sense the general intention of this measure, but the actual text (interesting how the actual text isn't in the Voters' Pamphlet; I found it online, though) includes this troublesome tidbit:

"The Fund Administrator may limit reimbursement to particular medical and hospital service providers with which it has made fee arrangements and may join in the purchase of services and administration of claims for other employees of the City of Portland."

The problem is the last bit about that allows the Administrator to "join in the purchase of services and administration of claims for other employees of the City of Portland." This language clearly sets up a pathway for money to be spent on city personnel who are not fire or police bureau employees.

Now, this could be a simple case of exceedingly poor grammar. Maybe they meant to say something to this effect:
"The Fund Administrator may limit ... and may join with other City of Portland agencies in the purchase of services and administration of claims."

Or, maybe those who sent this measure to the voters are counting on us not reading the actual text and are trying to write in provisions not even alluded to in the Voters' Pamphlet?

Whatever the cause, I cannot vote for this measure because someone, somewhere, will read the text as written and start spending these funds for non-police and non-fire bureau employees.


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