Right From the Start
In a recent report before a joint meeting of the Oregon Investment Council and the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) Board it was revealed that the unfunded future liability of PERS is estimated at $22 Billion – an amount that exceeds the current biennial general funds budget. According to the Oregonian, Rukaiyah Adams, the vice chair of the Oregon Investment Council made the announcement and then she cried. It would have been better if she had resigned and took the remaining members of the Oregon Investment Council with her.
Ms. Adams was appointed to the Council on April 30, 2013, by then Gov. John Kitzhaber – one of the people principally responsible for the financial mess we know as PERS. Three plus years have passed since her appointment. The problems at PERS have been known to a succession of Oregon governors – Neil Goldschmidt (D), Barbara Roberts (D), John Kitzhaber (D), Ted Kulongoski (D), John Kitzhaber again (D) and Kate Brown (D) who have done nothing to fix the problem and everything to compound it – particularly appointing a series of Oregon Supreme Court judges (all of whom are beneficiaries of PERS) to torpedo each and every attempt at reforms.
Posted in Corruption, Gov. Kate Brown, Gov. Kitzhaber, Gov. Kulongoski, Gov. Neil Goldschmidt, Government corruption, Government reform, Leadership, Metro, PERS, Public Employees Retirement System, State Budget, State Government
by Sen. Alan Olsen
Salem, Ore. – Last week, the Joint Interim Committee on Department of Energy Oversight discussed a recent audit of the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program.
The first independent audit of the ODOE Business Energy Tax Credit program, released Sept. 7, uncovered concerns with nearly $350 million in tax credits, or over one third of the $1 billion program.
“Despite repeated calls for an independent investigation of ODOE’s Business Energy Tax Credit program, our cries largely went unanswered,” explained Sen. Alan Olsen (R-Canby). “In fact, Michael Kaplan himself – the director of ODOE – responded to this recent audit by saying that the number of concerning tax credits has likely been underestimated in this recent report. The Secretary of State and Governor Brown’s administration should aggressively pursue any fraud in the BETC program that would likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars.” Continue reading
By Lydia White
In accordance with House Bill 2941, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is making recommendations to the Oregon State Legislature to ensure Oregon’s solar energy incentives are equitable, efficient, and effective.
One recommendation is to modify the compensation method for solar energy, net metering. Under net metering, solar owners consume energy their panels produce. When energy produced is insufficient, solar owners purchase additional energy from traditional sources. When excess energy is produced, solar owners sell energy. Solar owners are compensated at above-market rates and are exempt from paying their portion of incurred costs. Such costs include operation and maintenance of the grid and “spinning reserves,” the alternative power source utility companies run continuously in case solar produces less energy than projected. The state’s incentive structure shifts costs from solar owners to non-solar ratepayers. As the number of solar owners increases, ratepayers bear higher costs. The PUC is recommending these costs instead be shifted to taxpayers. While the PUC proposal’s efforts to alleviate inequity are commendable, their proposed recommendations still constrain Oregonians. Continue reading
by Sen. Doug Whitsett
State legislators were in Salem this week to attend committee meetings during Legislative Days. Representative Gail Whitsett participated in her five assigned committees while I participated in my four assigned committees, as well as the Senate floor session to confirm Governor Brown’s appointments.
My first meeting took place with the Joint Interim Task Force on Funding for Fish, Wildlife and Related Outdoor Recreation and Education which convened on Friday, September 16. The Task force is attempting to establish a new and stable source of revenue to fund an $80 million per biennium increase in Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) budgets. During that meeting, Task Force members discussed the outreach its members are doing with stakeholders, who deal regularly with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, to explain the proposed budget increase of more than 20 percent. We also worked on defining key questions and decision points for the task force, developing the group’s next steps and identifying its key messages. My personal opinion is that ODFW must undergo significant consolidation and prioritization of its myriad programs, and must continue its efforts to deal with inefficiencies and program duplication before the legislature should even consider additional funding for the agency. Continue reading
by Ronald A. Buel
Jeff Gudman is running against Tobias Read (Democrat) and Chris Telfer (Independent) for the Position of State Treasurer. Why would a long-time Democratic activist like me be supporting a Republican for this office? I am sure that Tobias Read agrees with more of my own policy positions than does Jeff Gudman, for example.
But State Treasurer is not your typical partisan office, nor is it a typical stepping-stone to Governor (such as Secretary of State, for example). In fact, Gudman openly declares that he is not going to run for Governor at any time — he wants only to be Treasurer — or I wouldn’t be supporting him.
Simply put, Gudman is more qualified to be Treasurer than Tobias Read. He is currently the Treasurer of the Legacy Emanuel Foundation, and he has held the Treasurer positions for Hyster and for subsidiaries of Northwest Natural Gas. He is a graduate of Wharton School of Economics and holds an MBA in finance and business from that school. He serves as a City Councilor in Lake Oswego, where he is a leader on matters of budget and finance. Continue reading
Knute Buehler for State Representative
Rep. Buehler works for policies that support small business, grow tech sector and strengthen education
A cross section of local business owners and business advocacy groups have announced their endorsement of Knute Buehler for state representative of Bend. This year Rep. Buehler has toured a broad range of local businesses from tech companies to manufacturers and craft distillers, where he’s heard consensus on the need to strengthen the state’s education system to improve Oregon’s economy, grow jobs, and increase wages.
“As I talk with local business owners about their challenges and opportunities, I consistently hear about the need for a well-educated workforce,” said Rep. Buehler. “That’s why I’ve worked across aisle to support increased funding for STEM education and am endorsing Measure 98 to combat Oregon’s high school drop-out rate. I’m proud to have the support of our local business community, and I’ll continue to work closely with them so I can represent their interests in Salem.” Continue reading
Right From the Start
The Federal Reserve will meet Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. There is endless speculation about whether the Board will raise interest rates or delay a decision until its December meeting. Much of the speculation in the media this past week has been about the low “unemployment” numbers and the low inflation rate. The popular “wisdom” is that continued low unemployment numbers are likely to spur inflation – they haven’t yet. (For those of you who have suffered through a teachers union led K-12 education in the Portland Public Schools this means that if there is low unemployment that there is greater competition for labor and that stirs wage increases which in turn stimulates inflation.)
There are a couple of problems with those assumptions. First, the figures used by the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics and relied upon by the Federal Reserve do not actually represent the number or percentage of people unemployed. Rather it represents the number of people who have registered to receive welfare in the form of unemployment compensation. It does not include those who have given up looking for work, those who are working part time but are seeking full time employment, or those who have exhausted their unemployment compensation – those combined numbers are legion. It is bad enough that President Barack Obama seeks to mislead us as to the status of economic recovery by citing those unemployment numbers, but to have the Federal Reserve citing those same numbers as evidence of “full employment” or as a “trigger” for inflation is just downright dangerous. Continue reading