Governor Kitzhaber gave his state of the State speech kicking off the 2013 Legislative Session on Monday. Here are four brief notes.
1. First issue: The first issue referenced in the Governor’s speech was “gun violence”. Coincidentally, at the same time Portland’s new mayor also made calls for gun control laws (not to mention President Obama). This is just another sign that gun control will be a defining issue of 2013 for Oregon.
2. PERS courage: Kitzhaber deserves great credit for addressing in his speech Oregon’s $16 billion Public pension deficit (PERS) problem head on. In way there is no other choice in light of pension costs driving Californian and other cities into bankruptcies. Some unions are indeed willing to drive a government or their company off the cliff just to cleave to an imbalanced payout system – just ask Hostess the makers of Twinkies.
Kitzhaber said of PERS.
“ It is simply about trying to have a conversation that allows us to strike a balance between the cost of our retirement system and ability to put dollars in the classroom today” and also“I am well aware that my proposal to cap the cost-of-living adjustment for PERS retirees is controversial.”
3. Raising taxes: Governor Kitzhaber said
“I am prepared to work with you to pursue opportunities to boost revenue. It is easy to aggregate the billions of tax dollars now going out in credits, incentives and deductions. It is more difficult to find opportunities for significant revenue. However, I think a compelling case can be made to reconsider and reassess the policies of the past in light of current fiscal realities and the need to make a significant reinvestment in public education and in other crucial public services. I would include the Senior Medical Deduction; the level of state deductibility of federal Schedule A income; and the possibility of capping total deductions and credits as areas worth further discussion.”
Translation = Expect to see efforts to raise a possible billion dollars by removing tax credit and deductions a s a back door way of raising taxes. Senior citizens and their health care also are the target of tax increases for higher earners.
4. Prisoners set free: Governor Kitzhaber said,
“…the relentless growth in the Department of Corrections is one of the major reasons we cannot adequately invest in education; or in community corrections…There is an opportunity here to find alternative and effective ways to sanction non-violent offenders, invest in proven crime prevention and community corrections strategies instead of additional prison beds.”
Translation = He plans to set criminals free as a cost saving measure.
It is quite unfair to always pin the problem of government spending on such a smaller factor in the budget (prisons) by comparison when you consider locking up violent criminals is among the single most important duties of government.
- How about you?
- Where do you think we are going?
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