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Post-Election, Ore. Public Employees Looking Forward to 2019 Session

Democrats will hold a supermajority in the Oregon Legislature in 2019. (Edmund Garman/Flickr)
Democrats will hold a supermajority in the Oregon Legislature in 2019. (Edmund Garman/Flickr)
November 26, 2018

SALEM, Ore. – Public employees maintain that lawmakers could address critical funding issues in the 2019 legislative session after a midterm election in which voters rejected messages calling for cuts to public employee benefits.

Gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler led the charge to reform public employees' retirement benefits, but he and many other candidates calling for cuts lost their races.

Kate Brown beat Buehler by nearly 6.5 percentage points.

John Larson, president, Oregon Education Association, says this message didn't resonate with Oregonians.

"If you're going to attract and retain people who are going to be working with our children in this state and our students in this state, you have got to make sure that they have some sort of security in retirement,” he states. “And I think the voters sent that message loud and clear."

According to a poll from September, Oregonians rejected by a margin of two-to-one Buehler's plan to fund education by cutting teachers' retirement plans.

Larson says educators in the state have been getting by on a bare-bones budget. Along with Gov. Kate Brown's re-election, Democrats gained a supermajority in the state Legislature.

After this election, Melissa Unger, executive director, Service Employees International Union Local 503, says there's an opportunity to move forward on critical issues facing Oregonians. She says there are three priorities her union would like to see lawmakers address.

"How do we adequately fund services, how do we make sure that people have a safe and secure place to live every day without the fear of getting kicked out of their homes, and how do we really make sure that people continue to have their health care?" she states.

Larson says he's excited about the upcoming legislative session.

"We really believe that this is a moment in time that our legislators can step up and make a difference for our students, and I really hope that they're there to do it, and we're going to be there right alongside them to make sure that funding happens for our schools," he says.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR