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 Add all this up and the total for pay increases the Legislature could have rescinded or prevented comes to $259.65 million.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 Senate Republicans offered a minority report to House Bill 2831 that would have rescinded the pay raises granted in 2008 or require Kulongoski to negotiate equivalent savings with public employee unions.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.