What the Oregon Dem majority still needs to accomplish

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

1 in 4 Oregonians is on Medicaid, the government health care payment system for the poor. That does not include older Oregonians who are on Medicare. Additionally, 1 in 6 Oregonians is on food stamps.

Last November Democrats gained even more seats in the Oregon Legislature and they held onto their decades-long control of all statewide offices, including governor. They returned to super-majority status in the Oregon Senate and moved to within one seat of super-majority in the Oregon House.

We are now more than half way through the Regular Session of the 78th assembly of the Oregon Legislature, which started in early February.

The session is taking place against the backdrop of an Oregon economy that’s continuing to improve. The most recent state revenue forecast noted “Oregon’s economy is experiencing full-throttle growth today. Jobs and income are increasing as fast, if not faster than during the mid-2000s.”

Oregon’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.4%, almost back to when it was at 5% in 2007, just before the recession.

Although the eight-year recovery is continuing, there are still economic concerns. The same recent revenue forecast also warned “Oregon’s economy does not appear to be quite as healthy from an empirical perspective as it was a few months ago,” and it noted “Oregon is not yet fully healed from the Great Recession. The state’s labor market is nearly two-thirds of the way back to pre-recession levels.”

The one-third of Oregon’s labor market that’s not yet healed is mostly made up of people who became discouraged and gave up looking for work, who are not counted in the unemployment rate. It’s what the CEO of polling firm Gallup called The Big Lie about unemployment rates.

One in four Oregonians is on Medicaid, the government health care payment system for the poor. That does not include older Oregonians who are on Medicare. Additionally, one in six Oregonians is on food stamps.

So what has the Democratic majority accomplished so far this session and what do they still need to address in this last stretch of the session?

The Oregonian Editorial Board delivered a harsh assessment several weeks ago: “Unfortunately, [Oregon Democrats have] spent much of the current legislative session on a counterproductive, far-left policy bender.”

In addition to ethics reform, some of the larger areas that still need to be addressed are the economy, transportation, education and the looming budget crisis in two years.

Economy: After the recent PERS court ruling, the Oregonian Editorial Board wrote “If lawmakers can’t reduce pension costs, they’d better get serious about encouraging economic growth and job creation.” They went on to criticize the anti-business legislation the Democrats have pursued so far this session. It is important for Democrats to now focus on dealing with the Port of Portland container terminal losses, with the struggling economies in rural Oregon and on encouraging businesses to create good-paying jobs to lift more Oregonians out of poverty and for all the people who’ve given up on looking for work.

Transportation: Part of the Democrats’ “far-left policy bender” was to pass what amounted to a hidden gas tax in the clean fuels bill. Republicans let them know beforehand they wouldn’t support two gas tax hikes, and so now Gov. Brown is having to work to find consensus on a transportation package to fund needed road repairs. Additionally, despite the failed $200 million CRC project, there is still a need for a replacement to the I-5 Bridge across the Columbia River.

Education: Gov. Brown recently acknowledged “Oregon’s 2013 graduation rate was the worst in the country.” Despite that, Democrats passed an inadequate K-12 budget. The most recent revenue forecast will help to add some money to the K-12 budget, but it’s still inadequate. Additionally, there needs to be some plan for improving education results in Oregon – a plan that actually works. I haven’t heard that plan yet.

Looming budget crisis: The recent Oregon Supreme Court ruling striking down the bulk of the PERS reforms from the 2013 “grand bargain” will cause around a $319 million hit to the state budget in two years, as well as a $358 million hit to school districts. Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) is also raising the alarm about when the federal government will stop paying 95% of the Medicaid expansion costs next year, which will cost Oregon over $1 billion. Kruse further warns that tax provisions in Obamacare could cost Oregon an additional $1 billion in 2017, and that there are possible costs to repay the feds for the $300 million wasted on Cover Oregon.

There may not be enough time in the current session to address all these areas, but the Democratic majority should at least be laying the groundwork to get them taken care of in the next few years.

To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Economy, Education, OR 78th Legislative Session, State Budget, Transportation | 19 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    Education and social services really need reform. It would be nice to get down to the individual case by case. Individual Education Plans with parent and child in the driver seat of the making of their own plan, bolstered by an independent IEP Standards Board (comprised of business representatives, religious, other social organizations, government representatives, and randomly selected demographically representative parents with children of school age). The public monies, say the 80% now allowed charter schools, walk with the Child to the educational venue(s) contained in his/her IEP.

    With social services, Individual development plans (IDP) could be developed for each individual drawing on state social services – with the idea of uplifting the individual to support themselves through their own efforts as much as possible.

    Going case by case in social services may be expensive in the short run, but in the long term, it could reduce social service rolls and costs. Current state laws actually require individuals capable of work to be nudged to go back to work and get off social service programs as soon as possible. Yet these policies aren’t being pursed with but little enthusiasm.

  • Moe

    If it wasn’t for the Dems, I would have to work!!!!

    • .

      Write on!

  • Jack Lord God

    I was on the phone this morning with the state department of revenue. It was a really simple question I have been waiting since February on for an answer. I was told that an email would be sent to the department involved, and it usually takes about a week to get back an answer to an email. Call back then.

    Meanwhile, Oregons SNAP program consistently ranks among the most efficient in handing out benefits and in 2011 got an award of $5M for doling out the cash so well.

    http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/2011news/2011-0928.pdf?ga=t

    That pretty much says it all right there. Would be nice to get our priorities straight but judging by the voting record people love being this kind of backwater. I understand that. What I will never understand is why liberals, who obviously like a high welfare population and the worst graduation rate in the nation make fun of places like Kentucky. Their every policy drives Oregon to become the caricature of such places they love to portray and mock.

  • oregongrown

    If the Republican candidate for governor in 2016 can’t bring the PERS cost explosion ( and swindle) to the public’s attention, as well as the lowest in the nation graduation rates, and the fact that Oregon has been under one-party control for almost 30 years of Democratic governors, just what does one need to plead a case of extremely poor leadership?

    These Dems have been the bigegst profiteers at their own party, shoveling the cash to the Dem politicians so they can in turn shovel every single abuse under the sun, to the PERS monster, for the grossly inflated enrichment of the entitled class that is Big Government.

    These are huge numbers mentioned in this article and it can’t just be another refrain of “it’s for the children” with the Dems demanding more cash.

    Corruption costs big money. It just needs to be front and center who got us to this point.

    • Sirfacee

      Graduation rates are misleading. Many students come from broken homes where there is not enough to eat. Sometimes the parents are not around as they have to work. Often the students have so many issues to deal with graduation is the last thing on their mind. It is unfair for you to suggest that we are not doing the best we can with the situation at hand…I am a teacher and many of my students never graduate, but at least they tried.
      I am not to blame. I work hard each day from when classes start at 8:55 to when they end at 2:45. Then I have prep and many things to do like grade papers and such, although usually I can get an aide to do that for me. Anyway, doing this day in and day out for the actual 172 days the kids are here is pretty tough work. And for all this I get a lousy 76,219. and some change. Great. I should have listened to my dad and become a lawyer…I hear they make a lot more than I do….

      • oregongrown

        So there are none of these same challenges in any of the other 50 states? Is that right? There are no broken homes in other states, only Oregon. Correct?

        And $76,219 for not even nine months work: you have two weeks off at Christmas; one week off at Thanksgiving; one week off for Spring Break and a whopping two+ months off in the summer.

        And $76,219 is over $30,000 more than the average income in Oregon. In 2012 it was $44,290 (Oregon Business Journal).

        Quit your job now. You need to get out and give someone else that job who will be much more grateful for the opportunity and will try much harder. Quit now. You gave up long ago. Someone else deserves your job.

        • Sirfacee

          If you do the math I only earn $88 an hour. I have heard of lawyers earning 300 an hour. So, it is really not that much. If I get my car fixed at a dealer they charge $130 an hour. So at 88 I am working almost for free for these people.
          Understand? It is not that much money. I can’t help it if the average is bad…pay people more, then. Anyhow, I am certainly not rich by any standards…and I do work hard for what I get. I am a professional…that is what the union says I am, and I believe them.

          • oregongrown

            You make ONLY $88 an hour. And you actually equate the easiest degree in the world to get, an education degree, with a law degree?!?

            We’ve all read the stats on Education Degrees- published by McKenzie and many others, Education Degrees are the easiest degrees of all to get, called the “Easy A” degree because they hand out “A’s” like party favors. I know, I shared rent with an education major in college. Her classes were a joke. She never studied and those are the people teaching children. Not that there aren’t good teachers that rise above the incredibly low standards. But you aren’t one of them.

            And so many teachers, just like you, have now made complaining about their jobs, a full time job. If you think you are worth so much more, quit. Go into the private sector with your Education degree and the work ethic that thinks working until 2:45PM is a long day, and see how you do. Understand you will face competition, something you know nothing about, AND you will have to get results, something you also don’t know nothing about.

            You are everything that is wrong with teaching. Please quit.

          • Eric Blair

            You realize you’re being trolled, right?

    • Sol668

      You seem to not understand. You’re never going to get the majority of Oregonians to vote for the modern GOP. I wish there were an alternative to the democrats, but I cannot fathom voting for people who share a party with the likes of Michelle Bachmann, and Scott Walker. The issues which the GOP can use to great affect in other states won’t work here, if the GOP is serious about bringing about change in Oregon and retaking power, they need to put forward an independent agenda, one that respects our progressive traditions.

      The Oregon GOP :”You want a welfare state? We’ll run it better!!!”

      but I don’t see you guys moving away from your extremist RW viewpoint any time soon

      • Jack Lord God

        Actually you are quite right about this. However I don’t think it is a progressive tradition, since what we are talking about isn’t really a tradition but rather a demographic shift. Oregon was not always a moribund economic backwater with a high welfare population and horrendous schools. That’s more recent, but essentially serves the same purpose – a constituency beholden to government for their very life, either due to welfare dependency or government employment.

        Republicans best choice at this point is to wait it out, our education system has fully collapsed, our economic system is close to collapse (Oregon’s main export being jobs, Port of Portland essentially non viable at this stage etc. ) and our road system on its way to collapse (voters in no mood for new road taxes, existing moneys effectively siphoned off for bike paths and parks).

        If I was in charge of the Republican party I wouldn’t even bother running statewide candidates. I’d put that money into educating the public about who got us here.

        • Sol668

          You simply could not be more wrong, I know its easy to make excuses for the republicans failure in Oregon by blaming government employees and welfare recipients, but those groups together do not come close to representing a majority of Oregon voters. (keep in mind due to the poor economy in rural oregon you’ve got a lot of rural welfare recipients voting surprising for republicans) The problem you’ve got is you cannot win the votes of middle class urbanites such as myself. I’ve never worked for the government, never taken a dime in welfare and never voted for a republican.

          I also don’t see this moribund economy you speak of, the economy here in Portland is booming, its literally the number one destination in the entire US for people moving states, I’ve never in my entire life (and I was born here) see such rapid development cranes dot the Portland skyline. Now you do have a point regarding rural Oregon, where the economy is terrible, and we do need to do more to help those economies, by expanding resource extraction on public lands. (logging)

      • .

        Bowl pucky over you monsier Sol668, Dem succoror.

    • Jack Lord God

      You speak about profiteering and graft as if it were a bad thing. It isn’t from the recipients point of view. The point being, Oregon has reached critical mass – there are enough people getting the graft that they amount to an invulnerable voting block. Add it up, the teachers unions and public employees, along with Oregon’s legendary and soon to be exploding welfare population and you have a large enough constituency whose entire lives depend on government payments.

      You are never going to get rid of it. Democrats will rule this state until eventual collapse. Right now the thing to do is not to try and fight it, but to educate people about it.

      On the upside, there is the recent PERS court decision. That’s fantastic news. Schools will rapidly be plowed into the ground. Start the education effort right there. Wouldn’t take much. Id start with a simple poster program, pointing out how your kids future was sacrificed for sweetheart union deals.

    • guest

      An up vote here

  • Jonathan

    Very amusing to see the Republicans going after the Dems for inadequate education funding. I will enjoy it while it lasts! In the meantime, I wish the Republicans would take a much-needed go at administrative bloat in the Oregon schools. Or is that perhaps a welcomed feature of public schools in the rural areas dominated by Republicans? I am only asking.

    • Nasal Basil

      Snot!

      • Jonathan

        I guess my aim was good!

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