Kulongoski New Found Fiscal Responsibility: Fact or Fancy


Oregon’s private sector employment numbers continue their slow slide toward a California style abyss. While the Oregon Employment Department reported no gain or loss in total employment from April to May, the numbers actually show that government employment increased by 6,800 while private sector employment declined by the same 6,800 positions.

Not surprisingly, of the 6,800 government jobs created in May, nearly 4,500 were census workers. That added to the nearly 2,000 census workers already employed in Oregon spells big trouble in the coming months as the census taking is complete and these temporary jobs end.

What is surprising is that at a time when Gov. Kulongoski and his “reset cabinet” are talking about the need to control the numbers, wages and benefits of public employees, he has added yet another 100 public employees to the state payroll, bringing the total increase just since January to 600.

That’s right, while Kulongoski’s administrators are proposing to cut $250 million for schools for Oregon’s children, $158 million for Oregon’s poor and elderly, and the release of 1,000 inmates on an unsuspecting public, Kulongoski and his cronies in the public employees unions have added 600 employees at a cost of $48,135,000 just since the first of the year. (The costs are based upon an average salary of $50,000 plus benefits plus employer payroll taxes – a figure that even the Oregonian now uses.)

That’s right, while Kulongoski’s administrators are proposing a reduction of 220 positions – less than 0.3% of the total state government employees and a figure that is even less than natural attrition – Kulongoski and his cronies in the public employees union have added 600 full time employees just since the first of the year. (Of the 750 positions proposed for elimination by Kulongoski’s administrators, 300 represent positions not currently filled – thus no reduction in the actual number of public employees. Of the remaining 450 positions, 230 are held by prison guards that were related to the proposal to close three prisons and turn loose 1000 criminals on Oregonians which Kulongoski subsequently withdrew, thus leaving only 220 positions at risk.)

All of which brings me to the point of my mixed emotions about Kulongoski’s “reset cabinet” and his public hand wringing about the unsustainability of the current and future spending levels of Oregon state government.

One’s first reaction to Kulongoski’s new found fiscal conservatism is to wonder where the captain of the ship has been for the last seven and one-half years while he was the principle architect of double digit budget increases while Oregon’s underlying economy floundered. You might ask how dare he self-righteously demand fiscal constraint when he increased the number of public employees by 7,000 following the last recession, or when he granted public employee union members an extra five percent salary increase –over and above their regular bargained for annual salary increases and step increases. You might ask whether this newly minted “fiscally responsible visionary” is the same governor who rejected any attempts to require public employees to pay any portion of their healthcare coverage –like virtually every other privately employed Oregonian. Could this be the same governor who flatly declared than any reform to Oregon’s gold-plated Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) was off the table during budget discussions?

Seven and one-half years of the most fiscally irresponsible management of any Oregon governor and now this. A call for fiscal restraint at a point in time when the governor has absolutely no responsibility to implement any of his “reset cabinet’s” recommendations. Seven and one-half years of refusing to listen to any of the economists, business leaders and even politicians who warned of impending fiscal calamity because Kulongoski continued to spent faster than Oregon’s economy grew. Or, because he added over $561,575,000 in new and annually increasing costs for an additional 7,000 public employees ($1,123,150,000 for each budget cycle). Or because, through his tax increases he withdrew over $1.5 Billion annually from the capital markets that might otherwise be used to create jobs through business growth.

On the other hand, the mere fact that someone as economically illiterate as Gov. Kulongoski has seen the light might actually change the public debate. Here, the titular head of the Democrat political establishment has acknowledged that Oregon cannot fix its fiscal crises without dealing with the inflated numbers of public employees and their overly generous salaries and benefits – particularly healthcare and pension benefits.

But then again, this new found fiscal conservatism may be more a product of Kulongoski’s impending retirement where he is beyond the need for the campaign rich public employees unions than anything else.

I’ll believe that the debate has changed when the Democrat leadership in the House and Senate (Mssrs. Dave Hunt and Peter Courtney, respectively) stop parsing their responses to questions about the numbers and benefits for public employees and the Democrat gubernatorial candidate, John Kitzhaber does the same. But don’t expect that anytime soon. The past actions of these public employee union loyalists who are still dependent on the $60 million dollars available to the public employee unions each election cycle would indicate that it will be business as usual if they are re-elected.

Meanwhile, Kulongoski can retire on his generous PERS pension (given his time of initial government employment plus his years as a public employee, his new income will likely exceed his current salary as governor) and feel “vindicated” when his latter day fiscal predictions prove to be true. But then it won’t be Kulongoski that suffers, only the Oregonians forced to support him and his spending policies over the last nine and one-half years.

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  • a senior citizen

    “Meanwhile, Kulongoski can retire on his generous PERS pension (given his time of initial government employment plus his years as a public employee, his new income will likely exceed his current salary as governor)”

    Larry just had to get in this cheap shot about Kulongoski’s pension being larger than his very meager Governor’s salary.

    I wonder what is Larry’s pension from his days as head of US West. What was he making in salary? What kind of health plan did he have? How old was Larry when he retired?

    People who live in glass houses most certainly should not throw stones.

    In fact, Kulongoski did a lot — probably about as much as was possible — to change PERS. He held back more of the state’s rainy day funds than he had to. He actually restrained State of Oregon public employment, as anyone can find from looking at real statistics. The Register Guard had a good sampling Sunday.

    The budget is going to get balanced. Why all the fake boo-hoo about the cuts to public agencies? That’s what you want, now you’re getting it. You should be happy.

    • a past and current UO student

      Do you have a link to the Register Guard article? Or do you have these “real statistics” handy yourself?

      • a senior citizen

        try these two articles and statistics set from the first article:

        https://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/web/news/sevendays/24913153-35/state-oregon-percent-spending-fund.csp

        https://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/web/news/sevendays/24926715-35/state-percent-costs-employees-cost.csp

        Oregon state government spending by principal funds

        General fund

        1989-1991 2009-2011 Avg. increase per biennium

        $4.5 billion $13.3 billion 18 percent

        Lottery fund

        $114 million $923 million 64 percent

        Federal funds

        $2.4 billion $15.5 billion 49 percent

        Spending from other funds

        $7.7 billion $29.9 billion 26 percent

        Total spending

        $14.8 billion $60 billion 28 percent

        Employee costs rise steadily

        Total state government personnel costs

        1989-1991 2009-2011 Avg. increase per biennium

        $3.4 billion $8.3 billion 13 percent

        Note: Includes wages, pay and benefits to permanent and limited-duration state employees, excluding those in the Oregon University System

        State government full-time-equivalent employees

        1989-1991 2009-2011 Avg. increase per biennium

        45,829 51,289 1 percent

        State spending as percent of total personal income in Oregon

        As a percent of General Fund spending

        1989-1991 2009-2011

        4 percent 5 percent

        As a percent of total state government spending

        14 percent 22 percent

        Fund explanations

        General fund: Personal income tax revenue plus revenue from taxes on corporate income, cigarettes, beer and wine. Spending is discretionary and most goes to education, health and human services and public safety.

        Lottery fund: Proceeds from Oregon State Lottery. Sixty percent is dedicated to reserves and specific program areas; the rest is discretionary.

        Federal funds: Money from the federal government, including funding for the elderly and the poor, plus federal stimulus funding.

        Other funds: Fees, including college tuition, vehicle registration, gas tax and licensing fees. Revenue is dedicated to specific program areas, with the state Department of Transportation a big recipient.

        Total funds: Sum of all funding sources.

        Sources: Oregon Legislative Fiscal Office, state Department of Administrative Services, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
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        • Steve Plunk

          Wow. Senior citizen you put out the cold hard facts and none of the libs would bite. Funny how that is. Show them proof of the fiscal irresponsibility and they clam up. I’ll give a hardy thank you for your efforts.

          • eagle eye

            Well, I’m not one of the liberals, but how about this one:

            That says employees of the state government have been increasing 1 percent every two years. That is FAR slower than population growth in Oregon. So I would say that is evidence that state employee growth has actually been very restrained the past 20 years.

            I believe somebody else — one of the self-described “students”? — made a similar point some time back.

            I wonder what other nuggets lie embedded in these statistics?

          • Steve Plunk

            I have noticed the excuse of low employment growth for state employees in others places as well. This is during times of huge spending increases so what gives? From what I have seen it is the contracting out of traditional duties the state employees used to do.

            ODOT is a good example. They contract out almost all design work and almost all preliminary study work that used to be done in house. That’s despite the fact that ODOT employs thousands of engineers. If you pay others to do your work you can keep a lid on the number of employees while still spending the state into oblivion.

            Another example was the recent hiring of a private planning consultant to do planning work for the city of Beaverton. Though they have a planning staff they contract out work and avoid new hires while still spending our money. Of course the firm they hired is a former Portland planning bigwig who now helps people negotiate the rules he wrote, for a hefty fee. What a racket.

          • eagle eye

            Oh, so when it turns out that there actually has been very modest growth in public (state) employees, it’s an “excuse” of some sort (for what??)

            If it’s true that the state is doing more contracting out, you should be happy. But what happens to the theory that the “private sector” is so efficient?

            As the guy says, you should be very happy. The state budget will be balanced, government spending will be cut. And you already have your restraint in state hiring!

          • Steve Plunk

            It’s not an excuse it’s an explanation of what’s happening. I first noticed it years ago.

            My problem with the contracting out was illustrated by the example I gave. It’s essentially a form of double dipping into the public trough. Retire from the public sector then contract back with your cronies. Crony socialism anyone? I see it as a form of soft corruption.

            The issue starts with overall spending increases and the diminishing returns we get from those increases. We can debate about the causes and cures but there is no doubt spending increased too much over the years.

          • eagle eye

            So you don’t like it when the state contracts stuff out, and you don’t like it when it does it in house. Maybe the state should just do less.

            So now spending will decrease. You will get your way. So stop complaining and be happy.

            Maybe Dudley will become Governor and he will show how to run the state government more to your liking.

          • Steve Plunk

            I never said I didn’t like them doing it in house but you’re right about the idea they should do less. There are severe diminishing returns on government activity of all kinds. Less will be better for all.

            I keep hearing the stop complaining comment. This is a forum where we exchange ideas. It’s supposed to have complaints. Without complaints how can we expect improvements?

            Maybe Dudley can run things better, we’ll see. I don’t trust most politicians and generally vote based upon a lesser of evils. Dudley is decidedly a lesser of evils compared to the Kitz. Didn’t all of these Dems provide cover for Goldschmidt at one point or another? More to the point Kitz has 8 years to fix PERS and didn’t get it done. Even if Dudley wins he needs a legislative majority to accomplish the things that are needed.

          • eagle eye

            So you want the state to do less. I guess that means you would like fewer services, since you don’t like what the state provides in-house, and you don’t like what they do with outsourcing. It’s very unclear that Dudley, if he manages to win, would have a legislature behind him, and his ability is very much an open question, since he has approximately zero record of public service.

            So then which state services would you like to cut or eliminate? Public schools? Prisons? Even less care of the roads? Or just close them? State subsidized universities, should we do without them? That last one is a real possibility. Or they could close one or more of them, the struggling campuses. There are several in rural Oregon, you know. Then there is DHS. Not all that much else to save big money. Close the state parks or make them totally self-supporting?

    • Casandra Redfeather

      But isn’t the real issue that Kulongoski and the others who had the obligation to be fiscally responsible failed to do so and now while many other Oregonians, including public employees who cannot yet retire, are going to be harmed by nine and a half years of poor fiscal management, Kulongoski is going to be able to retire with a very substantial pension? That doesn’t seem quite fair.

    • Anonymous

      You clearly demonstrate a complete inability to distinguish between a private sector compensation plan paid for out of free market profits, and a taxpayer funded ponzi scheme in which government employees are paid more of the people’s money to retire than to work.

      • a senior citizen

        I can make the distinction, alright. Kulongoski had one of the lowest governor salaries in the country at $93,600. Then he took a voluntary 5% pay cut in 2009. And now Larry Huss begrudges him the pension he will get when he retires after many years of acclaimed public service in Oregon! (Larry may not acclaim him, but the voters of Oregon did, twice, whether you like it or not).

        It’s bad enough that anyone would begrudge Governor K his pension. It’s ten times as bad coming from an industry fat cat who probably made 5 or 10 times what the Governor makes, and who apparently retired at a much younger age than the Governor. And it’s also a cheap shot.

    • eagle eye

      I looked it up. Ted is 70 years old, more or less (born 1940). Seems to me that is old enough for him to receive a pension. Or is this supposed to be another example of one of those government workers who retire early to feed at the public trough?

  • valley p

    Yes, by all means cut spending, but don’t cut schools or prisons or law enforcement. Cut government jobs, but don’t raise unemployment even though private businesses are not hiring. What is it with conservatives? Are they incapable of math?

    • Casandra Redfeather

      Threatening cuts in education, law enforcement and elderly programs and emptying the prisons is a tried and true tactic of the progressives to silence those who complain about excessive government spending and demand cutbacks. The Left will always throw the kids and the old people under the bus and let criminals run rampant before they will ever cross swords with the Public Employees’ Union or touch their precious benefits.

      • eagle eye

        There’s a notion that doesn’t seem very well understood in these parts. It’s called a “contract”. Yes, the public workers have contracts. You don’t just go changing the contract unilaterally in midstream. But the budget has to be balanced, now.

        The way you cut the budget is, well, you cut the budget. Meaning you cut the budgets of various agencies like schools, prisons, etc. Meaning more or less, you cut the services that those agencies provide. Like cutting the school year. Or perhaps laying off teachers and consolidating classes. (Even the latter might run into problems with the contracts.)

        So, by all means, reneotiate the contract and make a better deal next time. But that doesn’t solve the present budget problem.

        By the way, is your name really spelled Casandra?

        • Anonymous

          Contract theory is all well and good, but here are some other theories for you:

          1) bankruptcy theory – when you can’t pay your bills, you default on your credit, which terminates your contracts

          2) state sovereignty – the state can go ahead and terminate the contracts with no relief for the individuals

          Both are extreme, but in extreme times, we need extreme solutions.

          • eagle eye

            Take your theories to Dudley and Kitzhaber, and by the way, the Oregon Supreme Court.

            I suppose next we’ll be hearing about states’ rights and secession.

  • valley p is my bitch

    Yeah, because the conservatives in this state are the ones who insisted on growing government and creating a half-billion dollar shortfall…oh, wait…that was the Democrats, who have a supermajority in the House and Senate and have controlled the executive branch and all of its thousands of state employees for over 20 years.
    I know, it must be George Bush’s fault that Oregon Democrats continue to run this state into the ground! That must be the answer!

  • Ron Marquez

    …..”I’ll believe that the debate has changed when the Democrat leadership in the House and Senate (Mssrs. Dave Hunt and Peter Courtney, respectively) stop parsing their responses to questions about the numbers and benefits for public employees and the Democrat gubernatorial candidate, John Kitzhaber does the same. But don’t expect that anytime soon. The past actions of these public employee union loyalists who are still dependent on the $60 million dollars available to the public employee unions each election cycle would indicate that it will be business as usual if they are re-elected.”…..

    All the more reason for a sea change in Salem. The triumvirate of KCH spells deep trouble for Oregon taxpayers.

    Vote Republican or remain silent when the blue cabal does what they do best…..threaten to cut schools and critical services if you don’t vote for increased taxes and fees of every stripe imaginable.

    • eagle eye

      To deal with the budget cuts, what would you do other than “cut [budgets] of schools and critical services”?

      • valley

        Obviously you would sprinkle the secret magic fairy dust all around that allows you to lay off workers, cut the pay of others, and not cut schools or services. Haven’t you been keeping up?

        • eagle eye

          Now stop giving away the story! I would like hear it from him.

      • Ron Marquez

        eagle,

        Fair question but you made me do my homework. Bottom line…..I reduced spending in the 2009-2011 biennium by $8.3 billion by freezing spending at 2007-2009 levels. A reasonable approach given the private sector has fared even at best and probably worse.

        Details…..public safety and education were held exempt…..federal funds were not counted in the revenue stream….didn’t bother with administration, legislative, and judicial budgets.

        Here’s the link to the Budget and Management website from where I sourced my information.

        https://www.oregon.gov/DAS/BAM/GRB0911intro.shtml

        To valley p…..If this is “sprinkling the magic fairy dust around’, I’m okay with that.

        • eagle eye

          $8.3 billion? Why would you want to do that? The general fund budget is in the hole by well under a billion. It sounds like draconian and totally unnecessary cuts. It sounds like you would have to savage human services. I’m not sure I would go along with that. A lot of that is “critical services” to me.

          Under the circumstances, I think Ted K is doing the right thing (and all that he can do legally): across the board cuts to balance the budget, as required by law.

          I don’t see the point of a special session. There is no way to get agreement. Anyhow, the longer the delay, the worse it gets.

          • Ron Marquez

            eagle,

            You’re right…..I did throw human services under the bus and maybe selective cuts in education and public safety are warranted. But there is still at least $1.5 billion (see my note below) that could be saved by freezing spending at 2007-2009 levels.

            Future revenue forecasts are likely to paint a far more bleak picture. What I’ve put forward may seem like nirvana before all is said and done.

        • Ron Marquez

          eagle,

          Can’t add as you probably have already figured out…..

          Total spending reduction for the conditions listed above is $1.84 billion. Too many entries on the calculator leads to wildly exaggerated figures.

          Have a good laugh at the expense of a rightie.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Oh good lord – are we back to eagle pretending no one had offered alternatives to fix the Democrats mess? This is so tired. Plenty of alternatives were out there and you have been informed of them countless times eagle-eye.

        Maybe the best way to respond to this is to use one of your own lines:

        *eagle-eye* – To deal with the budget cuts, what would you do other than “cut [budgets] of schools and critical services”?

        *response, in classic eagle-eye fashion* – I don’t know, you Democrats are the ones who screwed things up, now you want us to solve the mess you created?

        • eagle eye

          Uh, Rupert, I’m still a registered Republican.

          To deal with “budget cuts”, you will have to cut budgets of agencies. A tautology, no? So if you are not going to “cut [budgets] of schools and critical services” (I was quoting the post to which I was responding and the square brackets were mine), what agencies budgets are you going to cut?

          Or are you going to invent a new form of arithmetic?

  • JR

    Isn’t it amazing how many liberals crave conservative commentary; there’s probably a psychological precept for self-indulgent angst…

    • valley p

      Speaking only for 1 liberal, what I crave is a good laugh. And this site supplies more than its share.

      • Steve Plunk

        And we love you too.

  • steven wolf

    This is how Oregon public employees are being fiscally restrained. The day long retreat below as advertised is required and paid for all of Portland Community Colleges 150+ administrative staff to attend. Many will be on overtime and premium pay. This was taken from the PCC email announcing the retreat.

    Greetings Administrative Services Personnel ~
    We’ve got a great retreat planned for you and wanted you to have some time to look over the list of break-out sessions that will be offered throughout the morning of the retreat. More information will follow shortly, so stay tuned!

    ASD Retreat – Friday, Aug. 6th – Sylvania Campus

    Agenda:

    7:30 to 8:30 am – PAC Courtyard
    Continental Breakfast
    Hula Hoop Class
    Bond Program Project Displays

    9:30 to 10:30 am – Break-Out Session #1 (see list below)
    10:45 to 11:45 am – Break-Out Session #2

    Noon to 1:30 pm – Cafeteria
    Lunch prepared by PCC Food Services, featuring
    local and organic foods.

    1:30 to 3:30 pm – Department Meetings/Activities

    3:30 pm – Release for the day
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    9:30 – 10:30 am Morning Session #1

    Ø Basic Yoga

    Ø Flower Arranging

    Ø Cookie Bouquet Arrangement

    Ø Reduce your Household Waste

    Ø Tarot Card Reading

    Ø Utilizing “Social Media”: How to do Facebook

    Ø Introduction to Stand Up Comedy

    Ø Sustainability

    Ø Sylvania Tunnel Tours

    Ø Disc Golf

    Ø Putting 101 – Bring your own putter

    Ø Survival Gardening Tips

    Ø Emergency Preparedness – Red Cross

    Ø Life by Design – “Discover, Design and Engage” for people 50 +

    Ø New Insurance by HR

    Ø 403B Retirement Savings

    Ø Pers and You

    Ø Sylvania Summit Hike

    Ø Windows 7 – New Operating System for PC’s

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    10:45 – 11:45 am Morning Session #2

    Ø Flower Arranging

    Ø Cookie Bouquet Arrangement

    Ø Color yourself “Successful

    Ø Quick Tips on decorating on today’s budget

    Ø Tarot Card Reading

    Ø How to pack for 2-weeks w/your carry on bag

    Ø Introduction to Stand Up Comedy

    Ø Sustainability

    Ø Sylvania Tunnel Tours

    Ø Disc Golf

    Ø Putting 101 – Bring your own putter

    Ø Survival Gardening Tips

    Ø Emergency Preparedness – Red Cross

    Ø Life by Design – “Discover, Design and Engage” for people 50 +

    Ø New Insurance by HR

    Ø 403B Retirement Savings

    Ø Pers and You

    Ø Sylvania Summit Hike

    Ø TSS 101 – Technology Resources at PCC