Leaders ignore economic warning signs

Press release from the Senate Republican Office

While Oregon families make sacrifices and find ways to cut costs, Democrat legislative leaders gave their stamp of approval to over $287 million in pay increases to state bureaucrats and political appointees. Governor Kulongoski and legislative leaders have repeatedly said that they think Oregon’s economy is in fine shape, but families feeling the pinch of high gas, food and health care costs think different.

“The absolute wrong time to increase the cost of Oregon government is while Oregon families are seeing the cost of food, fuel and housing spiral out of control, with jobs more difficult to find each week,” said Senator Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls). “We should be saving and finding ways to cut expenses. If legislative leaders think an economic slowdown is the appropriate time to hand out pay increases, they should find a way to pay for it by cutting waste in existing budgets, not spending down the state’s savings account.”

This represents the second pay raise in a year’s time for state bureaucrats, in addition to picking up the tab for a 12 percent increase in health care premiums. Political appointees received over $46.4 million in pay increases, some equaling raises of more than $3500 a month. While the total cost to the taxpayer this budget cycle is over $350 million, the raises inflate to over $650 million next budget cycle.

“Oregon families don’t have an ATM in the sky to make up for rising costs, and Democrat legislative leaders shouldn’t treat taxpayer dollars that way,” said Senator Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day). “It makes me feel uncomfortable to use our safety cushion to fund pay increases in the face of our tough economic climate. I don’t think it reflects the priorities of Oregonians right now. We should be talking about bold steps to create local jobs and get our economy back on the right track, not expanding the size and cost of government.”

Oregon unemployment has grown for three months in a row to 5.6 percent, higher than the national average. The nation continues through an economic slump brought on by the mortgage crisis. Oregon is typically several months behind national economic trends.