Moro v. OregonAnnotate this Case
Petitioners were active and retired members of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) who challenged two legislative amendments aimed at reducing the cost of retirement benefits: Senate Bill (SB) 822 (2013), and SB 861 (2013). Petitioners raised numerous challenges to the amendments but primarily argued that the amendments impaired their contractual rights and therefore violated the state Contract Clause, Article I, section 21, of the Oregon Constitution, and the federal Contract Clause, Article I, section 10, clause 1, of the United States Constitution. "Although there is no doubt that the legislature passed SB 822 and SB 861 to address legitimate public policy concerns and with an appropriate sensitivity to the impact that the amendments would have on retirees, those concerns do not establish a defense to the contractual impairment that the amendments effect. The public purpose defense that respondents ask [the Oregon Supreme Court] to recognize imposes a high bar to justify the state’s impairment of a state contract, like PERS, and the record in this case does not meet that standard. We therefore hold that respondents constitutionally may cease the income tax offset payments to nonresidents as set out in SB 822 and that respondents also constitutionally may apply the COLA amendments as set out in SB 822 and SB 861 prospectively to benefits earned on or after the effective dates of those laws, but not retrospectively to benefits earned before those effective dates."