No Guarantee of Blue Wave, but Early Warning Signs Are There

My dad always told me, “A year is a lifetime in politics.” With 531 days to go until the midterm elections, there is plenty of time for things to change. However, the early warning signs are there for a blue wave. If Republicans with to prevent a political bloodbath, they must correct course now and turn the national political tide before it is too late.

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Posted by at 09:28 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Real State of Employment in Oregon

Right From the Start

A recent article in The Oregonian reported that Portland (apparently for The Oregonian that is all there is in the state) was reaching “full employment” and that economic growth will now slow down.  Well The Oregonian did not so much “report” as they just copied information from a press release by the Oregon Department of Employment – no independent investigation, no context, no verification of facts, and no juxtaposition against other known data.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Bush/Obama Recession, Economy, Employment, Fake News, Gov. Kate Brown, Gov. Neil Goldschmidt, Jobs, Media, Media Bais, Poverty, President Obama | 1 Comment

Full page ad starts debate on spending reform

 

By Jason Williams,
Taxpayer Association of Oregon

A full page ad in the state’s largest newspaper ran in the Sunday Oregonian this week (click photo for larger view).   It was placed by Brighter Oregon, a  broad  statewide coalition of Oregon consumers, taxpayers, small and large businesses, associations and organizations who have come together to support the Oregon Business Plan framework for addressing the state budget’s structural deficit. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:20 | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Overtaxed and Underbuilt

By John A. Charles, Jr.

An Oregon Legislative committee is proposing a massive series of tax increases to pay for various transportation projects.

The proposal calls for higher taxes on vehicle registration, increased gas taxes, a new sales tax on motor vehicle purchases, a statewide employee tax to subsidize transit, and a new bicycle sales tax.

While there are many bad ideas on this list, perhaps the most offensive is the sales tax on vehicle purchases. It is being crafted so that most of the money would be diverted from highway maintenance into something called the “congestion relief and carbon reduction fund.”

Anything that includes “carbon reduction” in the title is guaranteed to be a boondoggle. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Shaky Assumption?

Earlier this week  wrote that the proposition a “growing population means more traffic” is a shaky assumption. I admire his making a contrarian point, and I’ve long been an admirer of his writing for Willamette Week, but let’s subject that point to some further scrutiny. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Employment, ODOT, Public Transportation, Transportation, TriMet | Tagged | 3 Comments

Anchors and Coattails: Trump in Oregon

If the Democrats have their way, the 2018 election here in Oregon will be a referendum on President Donald Trump.  Oregonians have very strong feelings about the President, so let’s dig into the numbers and see what parts of Oregon are still on the Trump Train and which parts seem to be in the firm grip of The Resistance.  In other words, where does Trump have coattails that 2018 Republicans could ride and where is the President likely to be an anchor on local candidates. Continue reading

Posted by at 09:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Technology Dividend: Growing Government the Stealth Wealth Way

By Representative Mike Nearman

For the third straight session, I serve on the Joint Committee on Legislative Information Management and Technology. In addition to the small smattering of policy bills that get presented to the committee, we have – at least for a short time – oversight of the various large Information Technology projects for state agencies that are in process at any given moment.

One project which is in the early stages is the DMV Service Transformation Project. As you may remember, back in the early ‘90s, the DMV embarked on a very expensive software project, which failed and eventually landed it as number two on the list of epic software project failures internationally. Today, haunted not only by their earlier failure but by the more recent high-profile failure of Cover Oregon, the DMV is just beginning to upgrade. The software they are using today is the same software that they were trying to replace nearly a quarter of a century ago. Yikes.

When these projects are first proposed, the committee is invariably promised that if only the millions of dollars are disbursed and the software project is completed, the agency will realize great levels of efficiency. As a student of economics, I know that efficiency frees up wealth, which begs the question: When a state agency creates efficiency through IT projects, what happens to the wealth?

Each agency has a mission, and, presumably, is funded to be able to achieve that mission. For instance, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife oversees the management of Oregon’s wildlife. They need a certain amount of money to do that. If they find a way to work more efficiently, what do they do? Reduce their headcount, facilities, or assets, and return their money to the general fund, or to the taxpayers? I don’t see this. Ever.

So, the next time an agency comes asking for $30 million or more for a software project, promising new heights of efficiency, I think the legislature should expect that the agency re-divert the savings – and promise to do so up front, as in, “We need $30 million for a software project, and with the savings and efficiency, we will reduce headcount, and you may reduce our appropriation by $3 million per year for the next 10 years.” I call this the Technology Dividend.

A great example of how this could be powerful is the DMV project, which is projected to cost $90 million over 9 years. These dollars come from the Highway Fund, paid for by your gas tax dollars. Wouldn’t it be nice if this $90 million – or more — was returned to the fund over the life-cycle of the project and was used to pave roads and build bridges? I think this is what Oregon drivers expected their fuel tax to do.

Or maybe not. Maybe we think that we need to expand the scope and the size of government and we can hand out big chunks of change and have agencies re-adjust their mission as they see fit. Hmmm. Maybe not.

Mike Nearman is the Oregon State Representative elected from House District 23.

Posted by at 07:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

New anti-business sales tax video

By Taxpayer Association of Oregon,

Priority Oregon has released a new video that reveals the hard truth behind the proposals to raise a multi-billion dollar tax on business sales (sometimes called a gross receipts tax or business activity tax). The truth is that a tax on business sales (gross receipts tax/business activity tax) is a tax on consumer goods because it impacts the price of food, clothing, supplies and even what we pay at teh pump. Go to Priority Oregon and sign up as a supporter.

Posted by at 08:51 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Education Savings Accounts Treat Kids Like the Individuals They Are

By Kathryn Hickok

Six years ago, Arizona became the first state to pass an Education Savings Account law for some K-12 students. In April, lawmakers there passed a new ESA bill which expands the program eligibility to include all Arizona children. Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee also have ESA programs limited to certain students, such as those with special needs. Nevada also passed a near-universal ESA bill, but it is yet to be funded.

Education Savings Accounts put parents in the educational “driver’s seat.” An ESA is analogous to a debit card for qualifying education expenses. It gives parents who want to opt out of a public school that is not meeting their child’s needs a portion of the per-student state funding for spending on their child’s education in other ways. Funds not used by the student in a given year can be rolled over for future years.

To really empower Oregon families, the Legislature should enact Senate Bill 437. This ESA bill would allow parents to choose the education that meets their child’s needs, such as private or home schools, tutors, online courses, and therapy. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is the Governor Serious About Transportation?

The legislature is going big on transportation infrastructure improvements, hopefully before it goes home. The Joint Committee On Transportation Preservation and Modernization has released the broad outline of a ten-year plan to relieve congestion across the Beaver State, which is now no longer just a Portland Metro problem.

This package of around $8 billion in spending on many needed projects, like the widening of HW 217, is an ambitious effort by the chairs and ranking members of both chambers’ transportation committees: Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Eugene, Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay, Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas and Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, but can Oregon’s executive branch execute on this level? Secretary of State Dennis Richardson campaigned on the risks that the Oregon Department of Transportation cannot. An audit of our key transportation agency by his office found that ODOT does not proactively deal with unbalanced bid items, hazarding greater exposure to post-bid cost overruns than necessary.

It’s not clear Governor Brown shares the same concern. I don’t recall her making this the major campaign issue it deserved to be, but last September she did quietly direct the Department of Administrative Services to contract with McKinsey & Co., at a cost of $1 million, to study the problem. If she didn’t know how to handle it herself, I suppose studying the problem made sense for her last fall.

But her response to the study’s results, released more than two months ago, is puzzling. Strangely unable to immediately implement the recommendations of this expensive study, the Governor didn’t deploy her own staff to tackle this serious obstacle to effective transportation policy in our state. Instead, she asked DAS to study the study. The results of this second-hand study were officially made public the first week of April. It recommended more studies, with timelines stretching out through 2018. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in ODOT, Transportation | Tagged | 5 Comments

How They Will Come For Your Kicker

The Kicker is a strange, yet beautiful mechanism that makes the Oregon tax system very unique. Should the State of Oregon happen to take in tax receipts more than 2% over projected revenues, then the excess money is “kicked” back to the taxpayers in the form of a tax rebate.  I love the Kicker because it reinforces the philosophical idea that your money belongs to you and not to the government.

Well this month marks two years since the Democrats in Oregon last attempted to take the Kicker away from taxpayers, and I fear we may see a repeat performance.

Buzz is already starting over whether the Kicker will “kick” this session.  As unemployment reaches lower levels and Oregon’s economy keeps improving, the chances of undershooting tax revenues is more and more of a possibility.  The Register-Guard has already put out a story speculating on the possibility.  Should the May Revenue forecast low-ball the number, we will see a whole new element introduced into our budget discussions.

So Oregon is having a big discussion over how to address the 1.7 Billion dollars necessary to maintain current services levels as well as pay for the new programs voted in by ballot measure back in 2016.  It is very likely that we will see some sort of “Grand Bargain” that includes a combination of tax increase and spending cuts being pitched to the legislature.  I would not be surprised to the the withholding of the Kicker on the chopping block as well.

As it so happens the Chief Sponsor of the bill to withhold your Kicker checks back in 2015 is none other than our new State Treasurer Tobias Read.  2015’s HB 3555 would have increased the projected revenues, thus eliminating last sessions Kick in order to direct half of that money towards the rainy day fund, and the other half to the general fund marked for education purposes.  By now though I think we are familiar with the shell game the legislature tends to play with dollars marked for certain things.  General fund money is fungible after all.

Kicking money back to the taxpayers when you’re facing close to a 1.7 billion dollar budget hole seems pretty silly right? That is why our current situation make for the perfect storm for efforts to eliminate the Kicker.  Think about it, the kicker for this session gets withheld in some giant tax/spending cuts reform proposal, then an effort is lead by our new State Treasurer to refer the elimination of the Kicker to the voters.  2012’s Measure 85 which eliminated the Corporate Kicker, already gives the big government crowd the blueprint on how to run it.  The money will be allocated to rainy day funds and to schools of course, which even I would be for if I actually trusted the Oregon Legislature to spend my tax dollars.
Do we need a more robust rainy day fund? Absolutely! Do schools need more money? Definitely! But I fear the elimination of the Kicker would cede philosophical ground to those who desire to keep feeding the behemoth of ever growing government.

Posted by at 06:54 | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Pre-existing Conditions Canard

Right From the Start

Canard, red-herring, fabrication, hoax, exaggeration, and the list could go on and on regarding pre-existing conditions being debated as a part of the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  To listen to the Democrats and the mainstream media you would assume 1) that the number of people with pre-existing conditions is legion, 2) that all of them will die if Obamacare is repealed, 3) that the only recourse is to force the insurance companies providing coverage to the individual market to include pre-existing conditions, and 4) that those forced to purchase in the individual market must pay a premium (in most cases an extreme premium) to fund that acceptance of pre-existing conditions in those policies.  None of these assertions are true – unless, of course, you believe that the government is the best solution for every problem.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Health Care Reform, Obamacare | 6 Comments

Victory: Oregon Catalyst Involvement Triggers Local Media Investigation into Union Contributions

By NW Spotlight

Last week, utilizing public data from the Oregon Secretary of State combined with help from local sources, we were able to highlight the massive investments being made by the teachers unions in Bend-La Pine School Board elections. State and local unions have been investing big money in order to gain an advantage in contract negotiations (currently ongoing).

Because of the combined efforts of Oregon Catalyst and others, the largest local newspaper in Central Oregon, The Bulletin, published an article further highlighting union involvement in these races. Appointed school board member Carrie Douglass (currently seeking for re-election) was originally set to “represent” the Bend-La Pine School Board in negotiations with the teachers and school employees unions. After she took money from the unions she was tasked with negotiating against, she will no longer represent the Bend-La Pine School Board in negotiations with the unions.

We will update this post with any additional developments.

Posted by at 11:31 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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