Measure 66 and 67: Truth on State Pay Raises

Below is a letter that was featured in The Oregonian, 1/21, and also sent to us from Paulette Payle.
Paulette Pyle,
Oregonians For Food and Shelter,

It’s bad enough that reporters Betsy Hammond and Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian did voters a disservice in their Jan. 8 article about Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes’ ad on spending growth and state salary increases. But the disservice continued with a Mapes blog posting (Jan. 15) and a David Sarasohn column (Jan. 17) perpetuating the original article’s misrepresentations. The Hammond-Mapes article was misleading. Our campaign has never claimed that the Legislature spent $259 million on “new” salary increases for state workers in 2009, and to claim our campaign “concedes” this suggests we were guilty of doing so.

The “$259 million in salary increases” that the ad refers to is the sum of salary increases handed out right before the economic crisis hit — the costs of which would come due in this current budget — and salary increases for 2010 handed out last summer.

The costs of pay increases the state granted before the economic crisis would not be seen until they were rolled up for the 24 months of the 2009-11 biennium. According to Oregon’s Legislative Fiscal Office, the full 2009-11 roll-up costs totaled $248 million. Also, this past summer, new SEIU contracts with state and university workers included a one-year step increase for 2010 that will cost taxpayers, according to the Department of Administrative Services and the Oregon University System, a combined $11.65 million. (Why was the state handing out pay increases for 2010 when it was worried about budgets — and increasing taxes — in 2009?) Add all this up and the total for pay increases the Legislature could have rescinded or prevented comes to $259.65 million.

Yes, Salem had a chance to rescind, suspend or delay the pay increases Gov. Ted Kulongoski dished out before the economy fell apart and tax revenues evaporated. Private-sector managers and workers across Oregon took such action in this recession. Not Salem. Kulongoski’s office told The Oregonian in January 2009 that he would not rescind the raises, and Democrats chose to do nothing — except increase taxes. Senate Republicans offered a minority report to House Bill 2831 that would have rescinded the pay raises granted in 2008 or require Kulongoski to negotiate equivalent savings with public employee unions. Democrats defeated this bill on a party-line vote on June 27, 2009. This would have saved taxpayers $248 million. Hammond and Mapes did not mention this.

Our opponents object to the $259 million figure, but the same state government document they cite includes the following statement: “To the extent that one is trying to add together the 2009-11 costs from both the 2007-09 and 2009-11 salary actions, the cost of steps in 2009-11 are already included in the 2007-09 action totals ($258 million.).” Again, Hammond and Mapes did not mention this, even though they were given these numbers.

In fact, figures from the Department of Administrative Services show that, even after deducting furlough days, the average state worker’s salary and benefits package will increase by $897 from January 2009 to June 2010. Hammond and Mapes did not mention this either.

The Oregonian’s readers deserve a chance to consider all this.

Paulette Pyle is a coordinator for Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes.

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Posted by at 05:30 | Posted in Measure 37 | 14 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Diamond Jim

    Once again, I must say that state workers are, for the most part, overworked and underpaid. They don’t get very many days off and when they do work they really work hard for upwards of 6 hours a day. With the economy where it is, they are called upon to do more and more each day. If they get raises they must deserve them or why would they get them?
    I don’t want people dying in the streets due to state cutbacks. I want state employees happy and smiling and doing their vital work.
    Ted is a good man and should not be blamed for the fiscal mess we are in right now.
    Vive la worker.

    • Oregon Entrepreneur

      Please help our hard working Oregonians to help our businesses recover from the economic downturn and create more jobs! The $10 and $250K TV ads lie regarding real taxes that businesses already pay: social security, employment taxes, payroll, equipment, property tax, trimet for multnomah county, etc.
      When it comes to profiting from sales, most businesses cannot make more than 15-20% from total sales. Oregon lawmakers are chasing away hard working entrpreneurs that create opportunities for others…”there is nothing wrong for the benefactor to also benefit from creating wealth for others”
      Increasing taxes just does not make sense. PLEASE VOTE NO ON 66 & 67

    • Mary’s Opinion

      Hey Jim, I hope your comments are tongue-in-cheek or you’re being facetious. Usually state workers have more paid holidays than most private industry companys.

  • Marvinlee

    Discussion of government pay should also consider the nature of the current recession. A variety of economic commentaries suggest that this is not a normal recession, but instead marks the beginning of a major world tilt toward lower cost producing nations. If so, our future economic growth will be very much lower than a linear projection of past history would suggest.

  • Pat Ryan

    Welp, That’s the Free Market. We will not rest until every government employee is fired and every Blue Collar worker in Oregon is making the same hourly wage as his/her counterpart in Bangladesh. That’ll show those union guys a thing or two. Too.

    See, only self styled “Producers” get to play with the Big Boys. State Employees are just burdens on society. Welders, Mechanics, and other people who actually work and make stuff are just interchangeable cogs in the global market.

  • eagle eye

    So $248 million of the pay raises had already been granted. They were supposed to be rescinded after already being given? Sounds dubious legally. But anyway, aren’t you guys always complaining that the proposed tax increases are retroactive? Weren’t you upset at proposals to rescind the kicker? Sounds like you have a double standard of sorts.

    The remainder is all of $11.65 million in step increases. Whoop de doo! Should the public universities have taken a strike to fight that? A great way to welcome all the out of state students who are subsidizing Oregon!

    • v person

      OK Eagle…times nearly up. How are you voting?

      • eagle eye

        I have already voted, days ago. You’ll have to wait until Tuesday at 8:00 pm (when the election will have closed) to hear what I did.

        Interesting that the election seems to be tightening and is predicted to be very close now:

        This is Hibbitts; the Eugene pollster Lindholm seems to have a different story:

        He doesn’t have a track record though.

        Of course, I know how the election will turn out, since my vote is decisive.

        Just kidding, I really don’t know. If I had to predict, it looks like one measure will pass and one will fail.

        • v person

          Yeah…intuitively a split decision seems like a real possibility. And if I was betting on this I’d say that’s how you voted. Yes on 66 and no on 67. That would blow some minds on both sides.

          I’d be very surprised if either measure ends up with a margin up or down of more than 5 points. Historically tax measures tighten towards the anti vote at the end, and this one looks similar.

          • eagle eye

            This has nothing to do (necessarily) with how I voted — but if I had to bet, I’d guess 66 (tax on well-to-do) will pass and 67 (tax on corps) will fail. 67 seems to be going sour in the polls — I’d guess because the case has been made that the taxes will be passed on; that taxes on gross sales are unfair (and/or will be passed on); that corporations create jobs.

  • Anonymous

    I’d be happy to give the state workers their pay raises and benefits – if we could also institute a meritocracy and fire the 10% of state workers who produced the least valuable output in order to maintain the same total payroll.

    I believe the resulting increase in efficiency would more than make up for the rest of the budget shortfall.

    • v person

      Well…that is closer to a real solution than cutting everyone’s pay. Unfortunately the civil service system protects to weak performers and makes if hard to show them the door. But that system can and should be reformed.

    • eagle eye

      Might be a good plan — are you sure none of this is done already? — but it’s not the choice tomorrow. Which is whether to cut services or not.

      • v person

        Having worked for the federal government, my experience was that weak performers were given quiet cubicles with little to do. They were rarely terminated. Civil service (and union) rules make it real hard to fire someone for being a lousy performer. It takes a series of poor performance evaluations, which takes a lot of time and paper work on the part of already overworked supervisors. They find it easier to just move someone somewhere else and get them out of the way. This leads to a certain amount of dead or nearly dead weight. I would actually put the figure at 25%, at least in federal workforce. The state may be better or worse.

        A lot of conservatives who thus think we can always cut 10% are thus right in a way. But the problem is that cutting 10% of the budget never results in laying off the 10% weakest performers. Until you do 2 things you can’t cut budgets without cutting services:

        1) reform civil service rules to make termination for lousy performance easier and quicker and
        2) provide market like incentives that reward high performance

        These are reforms that lack a constituency. Democrats don’t want to take on the public unions, and Republicans seem to care nothing about government efficiency. They just want to get rid of it altogether. So we remain stuck. Someday someone is going to say enough and go to work on this.

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