The State of our State

KulongoskiEarlier today, Governor Kulongoski gave the State of the State address.

The divergent headlines:

A video link: Watch the first nine minutes from KATU.

What do you think? How is the state of our State? Your reactions to the Governor's speech?

Discuss.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Text of the entire speech can be found here.

    Thoughts. The Governor is clearly a helluva guy. Every time I hear him speak, I admire him. He recalls a gentler era of Oregon politics, when state leaders could appeal effectively to "Oregonians," not just "Democrats" or "Republicans." I wonder if he wouldn't have been a perfect governor for those times. Example:

    But my friends – there is nothing less inspiring and more unhelpful to the citizens of Oregon than the sound of one-hand clapping. I need your hand to join my hand. That is the only way we will accomplish what the people sent us to Salem to do: Improve their lives. Protect their communities. Educate their children. And lift their spirits.

    Unfortunately, we live in different times. Now we don't need a cheerleader, we need a leader. We need someone in the LBJ (senatorial) mode, who can get things done, however unprettily, behind closed doors.

    Kulongoski has already made it clear that he's gambling on jump-starting the economy to get the money flowing back into the coffers. Not a bad aspiration. But what we really need is someone who will address the bigger issues of fiscal unbalance so that the economy doesn't have to be red-hot to pay for services.

    His commitment to education is also laudable. This is one long-term project the state needs to pursue, lest we fall further behind economically. Still, the Governor has only very modest plans here, and is working within the existing, broken framework:

    I’ve been asked many times since I unveiled my 05-07 budget if giving 5-billion dollars, 45-percent of the state General Fund, to K through 12 education is adequate. The answer is no. But it is all we can afford given our current revenues. However, if the Legislature follows my lead, exercises budget discipline, and restores fiscal stability – then based on today’s revenue forecasts, we can create a half-billion dollar per biennium education investment fund before the end of this decade.

    On the other hand, we could be listening to a Mannix State of the State...

  • edward (unverified)
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    Kulongoski realizes that Oregon has a lot of progressive types who care a lot about certain progressive issues. Unfortunately, the anti-tax conservatives have been much more successful in their ability to bring state government to its knees by cutting the sources of funding: tax revenues. Kulongoski is pushing a budget that says, we're not going to keep fighting for more money, because we keep losing. You think there's fat and waste in government? Well, this is all we've got. There's no hidden money anywhere. There's no fat. Now where do we start cutting? Here's a bone saw and get to work.

    It's a political decision that has the potential to position progressives to win the long term war against the anti-tax conservatives (whose goal is to effectively stop government authority and control).

    The amounts of money being talked about for education are seriously depressing. Absent new funding, nobody in education is going to be happy with the end result. Worse yet, the paltry funding being considered for education has little to no hope of 'kick starting' the economy.

    The only hopeful thing I can say about the budget overall is that perhaps in years to come, when the anti-tax crazies target Oregon, we can all say we remember the horrible years immediately after '05.

    That being said, I appreciate that Kulongoski supports education. It just seems to be the sort of nuanced support that leaves me less than jubilant.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Great comments from Edward. That speech is my definition of leadership. But then, I have friends who email me things like "I agree with you that given enough rope, Karen and friends will hang themselves". This same person thinks the Democratic legislators are part of the problem. That sentence is followed with "-the D's keep rescuing them! I have some stories from last session........"

    No the Gov. speech was not perfect. But it hit a lot of the "about time someone said that.." notes.

    And before we let Kevin get away with criticizing what the Gov. said about the Iraq war, did anyone besides me see the KGW Ask the Senators town hall last night? I hadn't started the tape recorder yet, and I don't know if there is a transcript, but I'll be darned if I didn't hear Gordon Smith begin with "If there is one thing I have heard from Oregonians, it is that they want the war to be over and the troops to be home". Let's hear the GOP attack machine go after Gordon!

    I esp. liked this posted remark by Edward, "You think there's fat and waste in government? Well, this is all we've got. There's no hidden money anywhere. There's no fat. Now where do we start cutting? Here's a bone saw and get to work."

    It is time to quit blaming everything on the executive branch and start holding House members accountable. The Rs sure stepped into a {tar pit, buzzsaw, take your pick} with the Minnis power grab aka Chief Clerk stunt. And now it turns out it may have been 2 state reps. (Kitts and someone else??) who suggested that stunt to the Speaker. More energy should be devoted to pestering the Speaker and her caucus to come clean on that one and to tell them it is only their fault if they got off to a rocky start.

    Sizemore was in the capitol today, looking very lonely. Kim Thatcher, (CSE-Dist. 25)said in the Statesman Journal that her legislative priorities are the Newberg-Dundee highway, the fact that the city of Salem provides Keizer water and sewer but Keizer residents have no input into that decision (does she realize the history of how Keizer became a sep. city?) and something about the local library. This is the kind of person that anti-taxers elect? Why couldn't the Democrats have done a better job of making that a closer election if not winning? The candidate was a great speaker in the Jesse Ventura tradition. I saw him at a Salem candidate forum.

    There was a lot of meat in that Gov. speech. Years ago, back in the days when Gene Derfler was an ordinary senator, before he was in the Senate leadership, there was an old couple I knew named Flo and Ted who actively lobbied the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. When I heard the Gov. talk about ending discrimination I thought of them.

    Please do not tell me to admire LBJ. First, Karen Minnis prob. has dreams of being seen as that sort of legislative leader. Not bloody likely. Second, GW Bush has too much in common with Pres. LBJ for my liking.

  • Ruth (unverified)
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    Yes LT you are right about Smith at the town hall; I was in the "studio audience" and he not once but twice referred quite passionately to bringing the troops home (we were all too stunned to clap--at least I was). He also mouthed the usual line about bringing democracy to Iraq but his heart didn't seem in it (and who can blame him, it must be hard to parrot these party-line talking points that are so obviously false!)

    On Kulongoski--first off I must admit I haven't yet read the whole speech. I'm too angry about the education part quoted above. it is all we can afford given our current revenues. By this he means, it is all the R's are telling us we can afford. If he was a leader with guts he would be pushing hard to look at tax expenditures, reduce lottery profits, and/or increase the obscenely low $10 corporate tax.

    Then he talks about how great it will be if we can create a half-billion dollar per biennium education investment fund before the end of this decade Ted, by the end of this decade today's students will be 5 years older. A huge chunk of their educational career will be in the toilet. We can't wait 5 more years for adequate school funding. I can't wait for a leader who will fight for our kids.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
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    School funding advocates seem to be confused. They cannot distinguish between grotesque post-employment pension supplementation, long after work, from the duty to put teachers in front of students.

    The Oregon Department of Education has agreements with local school districts to skim off state appropriated school money to cover payments on pension bonds . . . bonds that were not lawful (in my opinion).

    A solution to the school funding debate is to craft one single, and comprehensive, law pertaining to the duties and responsibilities of any and all trustees of investment funds, including pension funds. The State of Oregon should not have a dual set of trustee rules, one for investment of funds of public employees and one for everyone else. Just suppose that the Oregon Education Association maintained their own trust to accommodate the retirement savings of all of Oregon's teachers. Then compare and contrast the determination of whether such a pension plan is actuarially sound to the PERS scheme that perpetually requires post employment topping off in subsequent years – called “employer contributions.” It would be like the trustee of a OEA fund, a private entity, demanding that the school district's had not yet paid enough in prior years . . . as in the system is inherently unsound from the start but no one wants to admit it.

    The Oregonian, on Sunday, claimed that the employment decisions of districts are not correlated to the subsequent employer contributions demanded by the PERB. The link is however clearer even than the link between sipping an extra drink or two and then plowing one's car into another. The drinking had nothing to do with the other. Ha. I believe that the link is so clear in fact that an actuary could measure the anticipated subsequent “employer contributions” contemporaneous to the current budget cycle and that the local school districts could either include that in their negotiations or forgo all future claims to a bargained-for contract term that was never really ever publicly measured . . . except as measured in like manner to The Oregonian's dizzyingly absurd (drunken stupor) reasoning.

    When the legislature takes up the Oregon Constitutional mandate to adequately fund schools do you think that it could possibly mean that the legislature must cover all pension giveaways (post employment gifts) as a superior claim to paying for new hires or, heaven forbid, strike replacements? Do the teachers have right to the perpetuation of a knowingly unsound pension plan? Is this a public purpose that is greater than the public purpose of keeping teachers, current or even temporary replacements, in front of kids?

    I do forecast a more lively PERS re-debate than what some folks will admit publicly. It will require only one dissenting opinion, one reflecting reason over politics, in the consolidated PERS cases now before the Oregon Supreme Court. Or, it will require just one local school district to side with the kids over the objections of the OEA.

    Take your pick. School advocates or the kids . . . for there is very little overlap between the two. ORS 238.600(2) was, and still is, on the books disclaiming any and all state liability beyond the contributions of PERS beneficiaries out of their original paychecks. The PERB's demands for “employer contributions,” forecast to increase by a third notwithstanding the absurd borrowing in the last several years, are statutorily unlawful on their face.

  • Steve Schopp (unverified)
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    Jeff writes, """"The Governor is clearly a helluva guy. Every time I hear him speak, I admire him. He recalls a gentler era of Oregon politics, when state leaders could appeal effectively to "Oregonians," not just "Democrats" or "Republicans." I wonder if he wouldn't have been a perfect governor for those times.""""

    As gentle as I can put this is you are out to lunch.

    What the Governor did yesterday was wave his middle finger at those who voted against M30, for M37 and for M36. Which includes many Democrats.

    His address, crafted and aimed at Multnomah County democrat types was neither gentle or a reach out. Your characterization of the Gov's speech is classic. Like so many liberals the governor can be as insulting as any in political discourse while he and his following, you, pretend it is civil. In fact if was as vial, venomous and hateful as any comments you lambaste on Lars Larson.

    In case you missed it, check out the "Gosh Susan" commentary in today's Oregonian by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/commentary/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/editorial/110544866693880.xml
    Castillo, "I attended my first meeting with other state education chiefs from around the country. I remember their comments: "My gosh, Susan, what's going on in Oregon?" And: "What's going to happen? That would never happen in my state. We would find the money to keep the doors open."

    What she left out were those wondering, "My Gosh Susan, we spend less than you do and we make sure our doors are open all year."

  • Ruth (unverified)
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    Well as has been documented on other threads, Oregon is about the middle of the pack nationwide on school spending. So only about half of those in the room with Susan could say they spend less and keep their doors open.

    Plus, we are #1 in the nation in terms of our reliance on income tax (much lower in terms of overall taxes, of course). That means that the funds available to invest in our schools fluctuate unpredictably with the economy. This is one of the key problems that make Oregon's situation particularly bad.

    I guess I don't understand why people have a problem with teachers, fire fighters, police, and other public employees getting a generous pension after a lifetime of modest salaries (relative to the difficulty and importance of the work) and their dedicated service. I think these public servants deserve a good retirement and I am happy to help pay for it. It is the least I can do for all that they have done for me and my community.

  • Randy S (unverified)
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    Steve:

    "What she left out were those wondering, "My Gosh Susan, we spend less than you do and we make sure our doors are open all year."

    I love it when people conjure fantasy, pass it off for reality and all without a basis in research, science or anything remotely measurable.

    The beauty of blogs is -- "Any credible source for your claims, Steve?"

    Oregon's educational funding problems are far more complex than a simple apples to oranges comparison. Let's start with simple contract law. One party agrees to pay the other $X for services. Once signed, there's not much anyone can do about it.

    I admit Oregon's PERS problems are massive -- but they cannot be solved by simply reducing revenues.

    And what about the CIM, CAM, "No Child Left Behind" mandates, debacles, whatever you call it.

    Sadly, Rs like to argue it is all really simple.

    Maybe it appears simple to some simpletons, but the problem deserves far deeper thought, discussion and analysis than sometimes springs from Karen's party.

  • Randy S (unverified)
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    Steve:

    "What she left out were those wondering, "My Gosh Susan, we spend less than you do and we make sure our doors are open all year."

    I love it when people conjure fantasy, pass it off for reality and all without a basis in research, science or anything remotely measurable.

    The beauty of blogs is -- "Any credible source for your claims, Steve?"

    Oregon's educational funding problems are far more complex than a simple apples to oranges comparison. Let's start with simple contract law. One party agrees to pay the other $X for services. Once signed, there's not much anyone can do about it.

    I admit Oregon's PERS problems are massive -- but they cannot be solved by simply reducing revenues.

    And what about the CIM, CAM, "No Child Left Behind" mandates, debacles, whatever you call it.

    Sadly, Rs like to argue it is all really simple.

    Maybe it appears simple to some simpletons, but the problem deserves far deeper thought, discussion and analysis than sometimes springs from Karen's party parrots

  • Steve Schopp (unverified)
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    Randy S,

    Enough already with your cliche "simpleton" lines.

    What the heck are you smoking? School funding levels across the country are common knowledge to those whomonitor such things. Your pretense that somehow I and others either don't know, can't source the info, or don't consider details is a joke.

    Move you thought beyond the usual rehtoric.

    CIM/CAM has been a costly fraud in more ways than I could probably every get throgh your skull.

    So many on your side defend it with every conceavable twist and outright lie it has been stunning to watch.

    If you chose to hide you head in Blue Sand and pretend that many other States do not run their school systems with less money and maintain a full school year go ahead.

    Go ahead and pretend that Oregon school districts over and over again don't grant pay and benefit increases when they knowingly haven't the money to pay for them.

    Go ahead and pretend CIM/CAM costs nothing, the Portland Strategic Plan was not a monumental waste, that bilingual education is a best practice, that whole language and whole math are as well and that having the same people doing the same things with no consequences for their failure will bring about constructive change.

    Then you can get back on your pompous horse and lecture how more money is the cure.

    The solutions to many ills Oregon faces have been raised countless times over many years. Going back many when Repuiblicans raised the PERS issue when a remedy was realistic.

    It is you and yours who have remained simpletons with your endless clamor for more money while never addressing the widening drain which devours it.

  • Dylan (unverified)
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    Steve,

    If Randy is guilty of claiming more money will fix the problem, then you are just as guilty for claiming a tax cut will fix the problem. For 4 years we have been cutting taxes in the federal government, which has done little to create jobs, or increase the spending power for the American worker.

    Nevertheless, the private schools in this city aren’t doing much better at teaching your children for less than the public schools, despite the fact that they pay their teachers less, and give them less benefits.

    But you are correct when you say that other states teach their children for less money and keep their doors open all year. I mean, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and even California do it for less. But, pardon me if I would prefer not to associate Oregon schools with their schools given their consistent poor performance. If your goal is to turn out children who can’t find Iraq on the map, then keep cutting funding from the schools, I mean, really, who needs to learn how to read and write these days?

  • Steve Schopp (unverified)
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    Hey you forgot to tell us that Oregon is tops in SAT scores. If you are going to balther out lies remember to include the good ones.

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)
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    Randy -- Simple contract law requires a meeting of the minds. The game, if you have not noticed, is to treat future pension expenses as unknown and unknowable today; postponing recognition until another day and another budget. This leaves the barn door open for future fiddlers to do what they will, for there never was a bargain. A simple solution, and one that is tailored to contract law, is to reduce the uncertainty by demanding that any bargain include a forecast of the future pension affect of pay decisions today and incorporate precisely the same pension assumptions that seem OK for a 26-30 year period for bonds but applied instead toward a one or two year planning horizon. Let’s talk contract – it is fine with me. (If you are astute you might correlate the pension debate to the debate on the valuation of stock options; gee we don’t know the value right now but we will when the options are exercised or when the pensions become payable. There is a value to strategic ignorance.)

    Ruth – There are two separate categories of issues pertaining to public pensions. One is the promise to pay a sum certain at a future date based upon a known and fixed set of terms and a second is returns on investments. Suppose two people each make a deposit at Acme Bank, one with PERS Tier-One status and the other a non-PERS status member, and are given, respectively, 8 per cent and 1 per cent on their deposits. Suppose further that the state, through tax dollars, reimburses Acme Bank for the differential so as to supplement the returns on savings of the public employee. This differential in returns on private investments, or deposits, is not allowed under any known notion of capitalism; nor does it comply with equal privileges and immunities. Do not get lost in the legalisms that characterize pension investments as somehow different than savings accounts and thus not subject to basic concepts of capitalism and protection of an equal playing field for all. The maintenance of two sets of rules for trustees of pensions is a problem, in and of itself. It is like having divergent sets of rules for deposits at a common bank, based on status of the depositor. Pension trustees are usually held to a personal liability standard based on a prudent investor rule, where the trust beneficiary suffers the risk of loss. The Oregon Investment Council and the PERB are instead given virtually blanket immunity for all investment decisions. The OIC, on behalf of PERS beneficiaries, could fund an investment that was based on the dreamy notion of offering vacations to the moon and they would not be liable for their folly. Yet, the State Treasurer, a statutory member of the OIC, is also given sole discretion to review actuarial reports that are used as the basis for state pension borrowing and are fully outside the normal constitutional channels applicable to legislative appropriations. The State Treasurer is given the means to cover his own losses, investments upon which he can not be held to personal account, by functionally appropriating dollars in lieu of the legislature. This lack of accountability for anyone holding the office of state treasurer has nothing to do with whether one thinks public servants should be paid fairly and upon known terms. Blind support for teachers police and firefighters should not be so blind as to countenance arbitrary and capricious granting of post employment gifts outside the constitutional rules regarding appropriations. (I trust that our high court knows the distinction and is presently struggling with the challenge of crafting an opinion that is palatable to all; I pity them.)

    Steven Carter (for The Oregonian) recently articulated the following nonsense:

    “School administrators have no control over pension costs, which are set by the state board that governs the Public Employees Retirement System.”

    (Schools will look local if budget falls short, Sunday, January 09, 2005, http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/front_page/110518951384020.xml)

    The nonsense is the careful and knowing absurdity that there is no link between the meat of collective bargaining agreements and the resulting impact upon pensions. I am sure that the teachers would point out the pension affect of a policy change in Portland if it mirrored the recent policy change to contract out janitorial services. We would hear the Portland Association of Teachers remind Portland (and Steven Carter) that yes indeed the current employment and salary decisions have a direct affect on pensions. They would even calculate their anticipated losses for the benefit of a judge. I don’t see the PAT eagerly calculating the pension gains from salary increases; instead it is just unknowable and really nothing of importance at all – at least not today. I want it measured and bargained.

  • wmac (unverified)
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    <h2>just some thoughts on education costs. Here's an idea. It seems that we have too many school districts in the state. If we consolidated these districts, we could save untold amounts of money that is now spent on redundant levels of administration for students in a given area. My county alone has five different schools districts all within 20 miles of each other. seems like a waste to me. It is due to local school board turf wars, they don't want to give up local control. Grow up.</h2>
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