The Public Employee Unions Have Corrupted Oregon Politics


The KOIN 6 website carried a story Monday about the upcoming “special” legislative session. It noted amongst other things:

“More unemployment checks, a repeal of Oregon’s “kicker check” tax refund, increased spending and even a ban on plastic grocery bags are among the topics being discussed during the new 2010 Special Session of the Oregon State Legislature.

* * *

“One way the state government could get more cash is being proposed by Governor Ted Kulongoski. He wants the government to keep much of the money that now gets kicked back to citizens when state revenues significantly exceed expectations. That extra cash now goes back to taxpayers in the form of “kicker checks”. If the legislature approves it, the issue would then go before voters in November. The legislature cannot repeal the kicker by itself, because it’s in the state constitution. Thus, it requires a constitutional amendment – and those must be voted on.”

Two weeks before the election on Measures 66 and 67 I wrote:

“The point being is that Oregon business leaders are destined to fight this tax fight over and over and over again. They have won the fight the last two times and they may well win it again this time. However, until they are prepared to directly address the financial power of the public employee unions they will never win the war. The battle will be fought repeatedly until the business community losses. Then it will be fought anew at a higher level because the appetite for growth in numbers, salaries and benefits of the public employee unions is insatiable.” [Emphasis added]

The ink was not even dry on the results of the election when Gov. Kulongoski called in leaders from the public employee unions and the business community seeking support for his proposal to raise even more revenue by eliminating Oregon’s cherished “kicker” — the amount by which taxes are collected in excess of budgeted need each year. The public employee unions’ leaders endorsed the proposal enthusiastically — why wouldn’t they since they are the primary beneficiaries of increased government spending? The business community, still licking its wounds from the passage of the massive tax increases in Measures 66 and 67, were more reticent — and for good reason. They have seen the future and it is one of unchecked spending and continuous increases in fees and taxes and all backed by the public employee unions massive campaign war chests.

Oregon’s political system is broken. It lacks any semblance of a balance because one entity — the public employee unions — has access to virtually unlimited amounts of cash that it has demonstrated it is prepared to spend freely. No person or entity, or even a group of entities, can match the financial resources of the public employee unions — particularly on a recurring basis.

The recent election on Measure 66 and 67 highlighted the disparity. The proponents of the massive tax increase outspent the opponents by over fifty percent. The vast majority of the proponents’ money came from the public employee unions and therein lies the rub.

When the opponents needed money to finance the signature gathering and campaign they had to go out to contributors one by one and raise the money — a $100 here, a $1000 there. Yes, there were some large contributions from some large business entities but they pale in comparison to the million dollar contributions from the public employee unions.

And while the opponents had to go one by one to their contributors, the public employee unions had the state and local government and the local school districts automatically collect and remit their money on a quarterly basis — over $60 million of it each biennium — every biennium. While the opponents had to beg and convince each contributor each time they asked for a contribution, the public employees unions have a mandatory collection from public employees each payday using the resources of the state and local government and the local school districts.

The sheer volume of money available to the public employees unions coupled with the use of government resources to collect the mandatory contributions is what has unbalanced the political process. Until a means is found to return the public employee unions to the same footing as all other political organizations in terms of raising political money, Oregon political system will remain broken.

Even though the public employees unions tend to support Democrats — almost exclusively — this is not about party politics. This is about political corruption where one entity utilizes the resources of the state to acquire political contributions on a mandatory basis and thereafter uses those contributions to ensure government benefits to itself. The public employee unions have run the state of California over the economic cliff and they have now pushed Oregon to the brink.

No other political fight is worth pursuing until the corruption in Oregon’s political system is purged.

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 26 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    Right on. Until Oregon becomes a right-to-work state it is lost.
    Nike has already been quietly leaving – shifting people away – and may even pull out altogether. I sure would in light of the fiasco.
    Sadly, there are many who will not agree with you and who will sit around pontificating while the state slides ever deeper into a malaise not seen since the Carter years.
    Nice work if you can get it.
    I wonder just how many companies are wanting to locate here? Any?
    Even one?
    I think not.
    Thanks, Larry, for a right-on analysis that too few will heed.
    The hubris of these union people is only matched by O himself.

    • Richard Fritzler

      *The New Oregon Wealth Tax*.

      I’ve been searching voraciously and am surprised the no one has been discussing the *Exemption from the New Oregon Tax*.

      Has nobody notice the big glaring *EXEMPTION* that is available so these “HIGH INCOME” ($125k a year) business owners and these outrageously arrogant corporations can avoid paying this New Oregon Wealth Tax?

      Maybe not all, but many of these business owners can qualify to avoid this tax, in fact they may be able to pay even less that previously expected because of the exemption.

      While I am celebrating that the backs of business owners won’t be broke trying to support the wasteful spending habits of the politicos that hold your childs education as ransome everytime they want to spend more than is available on their pet projects or to pad the wallets of their friends, or simply because they are too “involved” to actually be frugal with their spending habits, others may be at least disappointed that knowledgeable business owners can adapt to these new inconveniences.

      If you are in the claimed 3% that will shoulder this 700 million dollar padding for the Legislature ask your accountant about the New Oregon Tax Exemption. If he/she doesn’t know about it, call me, Richard Fritzler at 1 877 NCS PRO1. We can provide an analysis for your unique business situation and see if you qualify.
      #11 Richard Fritzler on 2010-02-03 17:06 (Reply)

  • Jim Bob

    Why on earth would any self-respecting business owner waste their time meeting with a union shill like our idiot Governor? The man has made a living leeching off of unions all his life. The sooner he is gone the better.

  • Jim Ray

    Notice article on OregonWatchDog.com
    http://www.oregonwatchdog.com/view.php?34006

    Has DiLorenzo lost his mind? A sales tax? Oh my God John.

    Why in the frigging Hell would any right thinking businessman want to become a Tax Collector for the corrupt State of Oregon?

  • Happy in Texas

    To bad for you Oregon, you did this to yourself. Oregon is going down the drain economically. Nothing will change until the State hits rock bottom where most private sector jobs are gone along with the taxes needed to feed the unions. What will the State do then? Look at California. Industries and high wage earners have left or are leaving. The only people moving to California are low income wards of the State. California is bankrupt. Oregon is heading down the same path.

    I cannot wait to see Oregon go the same way as California. The continual collapse of Oregon benefits the States that don’t punish businesses and individuals with high taxes and outrageous regulations.

    Go for it, Oregon. Add a sales tax and while you’re at it change that “kicker law”. Financial disaster is just around the corner!

    • Anonymous

      Not feeling all that patriotic this morning, are we Texas? Gleefully anticipating the suffering of your fellow Americans? Hmph. Anyway… there will be no sales tax added and the “kicker” is not nearly as “cherished” as Larry would have you believe. That said, the only way the “kicker check” refunds will ever be repealed is if the money is re-directed to reserves.

  • skippy

    No, the $11 million dollar man Loren Parks corrupted Oregon politics. Just one wealthy donor has influenced Oregon politics.

    He gave Bob Tiernan $86,000 for his legislative races and unsuccesssful bid for the Oregon Supreme Court.

    He gave Kevin Mannix $3,384,518 in support of Kevin Mannix’s candidate races and ballot measure campaigns.

    Enter Dick Arney from Freedomworks dumping thousands and thousands into the Measures vote with additional help from Loren Parks.

  • Anonymous

    skippy, how is that corrupting?

    The OEA gave over $2 million for yes on 66 & 67. That kind of influence is the corruption the state suffers from.
    The repeated buying of elections by public employee unions and their dominating agencies and policy making is the corruption Oregon suffers under.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    As many have said, Oregon may well be past the point of no return in terms of public employee unions and others who have tax dollars from others as the lifeblood for themselves. Their numbers have simply grown so large that it is very difficult for anyone to fight them.

    Oregon now has become an experiment in Democracies fatal flaw – the majority voting to steal from the minority. Our unemployment, business flight and ever increasing tax load are testament to that. The unions have vowed to continue to come back for more.

    Its an interesting human condition, although my wife would say it stems more from my lizard form. For some reason, although the disastrous results of the equation are predictable to all, there is this quiet fascination in watching the destruction.

  • valley p

    “When the opponents needed money to finance the signature gathering and campaign they had to go out to contributors one by one and raise the money – a $100 here, a $1000 there.”

    Or $100,000 here (Phil Knight,) $75,000 there (Loren “Creepy” Parks,) another $75,000 here (Boyle,) $100,000 from the Oregon Bankers Association (presumably without contacting their shareholders) and on and on.

    “Their numbers have simply grown so large that it is very difficult for anyone to fight them.”

    Compared to what Rupert? Which states have lower numbers of public employees belonging to unions. Which have more? Is Oregon really unique?

    “Oregon now has become an experiment in Democracies fatal flaw – the majority voting to steal from the minority.”

    Really? That is the fatal flaw of democracy? What will replace it then? What system is better?

    • Jay Bozievich

      “What system is better?”

      A constitutionally limited representative republic. Limited to certain enumerated powers granted to it by the people with those limitations not subject to “evolution”.

      • valley p

        Am I detecting a conservative argument against the initiative process?

      • eagle eye

        How far back would you like to go?

        To Eisenhower? (Interstate highways?)

        To Franklin Roosevelt? (social security and medicare?)

        To Lincoln? (Apart from the consitutional controversies around the Civil War, how about federal involvement in agriculture, land grant universities perhaps?)

        To Jefferson? (Louisiana Purchase?)

  • skippy

    From a Republican Meeting: Russ Walker calls for a purge of “bad” Republicans., Walker said we are no better than the Democrats, we expanded government. At the same meeting it was stated that progressives have infiltrated the Republican Party. Walden is too liberal, G.Smith was really a Democrat, Republicans don’t have a deep bench, Allen Alley has no plans, John Limb has no plans a Trailblazer doesn’t know how government works, and unions are bad. By the time the Republican party figures out what they must do to be attractive to voters it may be too late.

  • davidg

    Actually, the problem is bigger than just Oregon. The Wall Street Journal has an editorial today describing the national implication of public employee union power:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703837004575013424060649464.html

    I think Larry’s article and the WSJ editorial point to this emerging public policy issue: how can the public assert control over the public employee unions?

    • Mary’s Opinion

      Public employees can only be paid if there are sufficient jobs and workers in the private sector to provide the taxes that pay public employee wages and benefits. At some point government growth becomes unsustainable because there are not enough jobs and workers in the private sector. Oregon is no different than the federal government. They’re on the same road.

      When people stop wanting a free ride and elected officials stop being self-serving, we may see improvement. Is this against human nature?

  • Steve Plunk

    It’s not just the union members that are corrupting the political system. All public employees have a vested interest in continued growth of the state government. Job security, promotions, and legacy building all are enhanced by agencies that are growing in size. Employees may have children looking to some day follow their parents into public sector employment and shrinking government would certainly reduce the chance of that happening.

    When those incentives are in place the public employees secondary job becomes protection and growth of the department, agency, and even overall government. One of the best ways to convince the legislature of increasing funds is to overstate needs and to relentlessly lobby the legislature. Both of those are easily accomplished when A) your office is two blocks from the hearing room where you can testify and B) your bosses (if you have one) encourage your testimony. Heck, let’s not forget how many of the legislature’s bills are introduced by the executive branch to begin with.

    Citizens who might oppose a bill or increase in spending on a program would have to miss work and incur travel expenses to testify and would assume their boss would give them time off to go. Businesses face the same costs and time restraints. The sad fact is the executive branch and it’s employees have much more influence than the common citizens. It’s no wonder government growth is out of control.

    A limit to executive branch bills should be established as well as a limit to their lobbying for passage. Testimony from common citizens and interested parties should be a priority for the committee hearing any bill. Most importantly legislators should understand the motivations and interests of those from the executive branch who do testify, it seems they now consider them disinterested parties which they are not.

    • valley p

      “One of the best ways to convince the legislature of increasing funds is to overstate needs and to relentlessly lobby the legislature.”

      Can’t do it. Public employees cannot lobby legislators. That is illegal.

      • Steve Plunk

        Executive branch employees testify at almost every legislative hearing. That’s a form of lobbying. The employees can lobby on their own time and the union can lobby any time. Educational meetings for legislators can influence no less than lobbying in the traditional sense and in fact carry an air of impartiality that misleads. The fact is they influence legislative activity immensely.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >Can’t do it. Public employees cannot lobby legislators. That is illegal.

        Please stop making up this kind of nonsense. This is as absurd as when you claimed illegal alieans had no standing in front of the Supreme Court.

        Public employees are allowed to lobby the state legislature. They just can’t do it in an official capacity. That means, among other things – not using state resources, not on the clock, not using official letterhead or representing themselves as other than a private citizen.

        One would think that it would pop into your head that it would be odd that the first ammendment would not apply to public employees before you made this kind of pronouncement.

        / \
        / ! \
        /___ \

        *WARNING* – USE OF THE WORDS “A LOT” OR SEVERAL SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN TO MEAN THE SAME AS SAYING “ALL” OR “EVERY”
        *WARNING* – USE OF THE PHRASE “AMONG OTHER THINGS” SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN TO MEAN “THE ONLY THINGS” OR AS A COMPLETE LISTING
        *WARNING* – USE OF THE WORD “NOT” IN THIS WARNING SHOULD BE TAKEN AS MEANING IN THE NEGATIVE

      • Charlie Bernards

        My reps Thacher and George, tell me that state employee lobby them more then any one else. Where would I find that in the law?? Might ask or call your rep and see if they find the same thing, Just maybe they do it on their many days off, but I doubt it..

  • Richard Fritzler

    This letter was simply the opportunity to use the MEDIA as Free PR. It worked all of you are reading it and talking about it.

    More importantly; The New Oregon Wealth Tax. I’ve been searching voraciously and am surprised the no one has been discussing the Exemption from the New Oregon Tax.

    Has nobody notice the big glaring EXEMPTION that is available so these “HIGH INCOME” ($125k a year) business owners and these outrageously arrogant corporations can avoid paying this New Oregon Wealth Tax?

    Maybe not all, but many of these business owners can qualify to avoid this tax, in fact they may be able to pay even less that previously expected because of the exemption.

    While I am celebrating that the backs of business owners won’t be broke trying to support the wasteful spending habits of the politicos that hold your childs education as ransome everytime they want to spend more than is available on their pet projects or to pad the wallets of their friends, or simply because they are too “involved” to actually be frugal with their spending habits, others may be at least disappointed that knowledgeable business owners can adapt to these new inconveniences.

    If you are in the claimed 3% that will shoulder this 700 million dollar padding for the Legislature ask your accountant about the New Oregon Tax Exemption. If he/she doesn’t know about it, call me, Richard Fritzler at 1 877 NCS PRO1. We can provide an analysis for your unique business situation and see if you qualify.
    #11 Richard Fritzler on 2010-02-03 17:06 (Reply)

  • Ron

    We have two bright blue counties in Oregon…..Multnomah and Lane. The passage of measures 66 & 67 demonstrated clearly the influence they have on politics in Oregon. Until those counties turn red, the state’s leadership will continue to lean left and support most everything the unions want.

    I’ve already admitted I have no idea how to turn this around. However, the nation’s dissatisfaction with the direction the whitehouse and congress are going will no doubt be bad news for the left in the upcoming November elections. Whether that carries into Oregon remains to be seen.

  • Amused

    Richard Fritzler: Amazing that LLCs aren’t mentioned at all, isn’t it? The drafters probably assumed the flow-through income would be covered by M66. Unfortunately, for them, that is not always the case. 🙂

  • 3DogsGo

    Eventually the parasites eat the host, and eventually they too will destroy themselves when there is no one left to leech from.

    The late 1800 grasshopper plague comes to mind, after the grasshoppers turned everything in site to chaffe they too died. There was nothing left to grow more food for them to eat.

    Lessons be learned from the eventual results of parasites sucking up everything they can get away with.

  • eagle eye

    If it requires a constitutional amendment, the voters will undoubtedly have an opportunity to vote on it, and then advocates of the position held here will have ample opportunity to demonstrate once again how much in tune they are with the voters. .

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