by Dave Berg
“There ought to be one day, just one, when there is open season on senators.”- Will Rogers
For many years I have lobbied our legislature and I encourage all Oregonians to do so. Oregon is fortunate to have a legislature that isn’t staffed by professional politicians, which serves us well, but only when our representatives reflect the values of their constituents. The good news is despite national politics, we can still influence matters in Oregon, but only when well represented.
Unfortunately this session didn’t represent the needs of its citizens well. It refused to address the core issues facing our budget and our values. While it increased expenditures more than 13%, it did not provide enough funding for education. Why? The answer is simple. This legislature refused to deal with PERS. It made a very real choice that it would spend more, tax more, and yet ignore the core issues driving our current fiscal situation. It passed legislation that had a minimal impact on the cost of PERS and called it “PERS reform”. Legislators knew it would be legally challenged and likely overturned.
That’s not reform, its “smoke and mirrors” and children are paying the price for it. To save schools and improve education, Oregon requires fair PERS reform. But this legislature was just too tied to partisan special interests to address it.
At the same time our local representatives supported an “attack on seniors” by trying to steal the “senior medical expense deduction” for more revenue (think “grand bargain” hype). How so? Seniors over 62 can write off their medical expenses on their Oregon tax return. That’s very critical for seniors that have large medical expenses due to critical illnesses or chronic conditions.
Our current State Senator and Representative in Lake Oswego believe those deductions are “overly generous” and followed their partisan leadership by voting against seniors. They tried to increase state revenue, ala the current Portland house leadership’s directive, by eliminating your current senior medical expense deduction. Shame on them for attacking seniors by bowing to their partisan “tax and spend” directive, we deserve better!
We have seen this “tax and spend” mentality for years. It’s time to send a very real “wake up” call to our local representatives before the price becomes too high. Seniors are a very large portion of their constituents and its time we tell them to fix PERS, save schools, and don’t attack seniors to support your partisan “tax & spend” mandates.
Ironically this same legislature was also reducing sentencing for criminals (more criminals on our streets) while simultaneously our local representatives were supporting partisan efforts to limit our civil rights, under the second amendment. They won’t tell us these same criminals can transition into violent offenders. Yet they will support gun control bills limiting our ability to protect our families and ourselves from becoming victims.
So what is the real direction? Simple, less expenditures on prisons provide more funds for PERS, while more victims require more demand on government services, more spending, and future tax increases. Increasing expenditures without actually solving the problem was the partisan mandate of this legislative session and it’s unconscionable. Combined these efforts don’t represent good governance from our legislature or our local representatives. Its time voters consider a change in 2014.
Dave Berg is a 22-year resident of Lake Oswego, a board member of COLA LO, Chair of the Lake Oswego Budget Committee, and Co-Chair of the legislative Committee of the Clackamas County Republican Party.