Voting with Their Wallets

Jon Perr

Voters across the nation dealt a major defeat to the radical anti-government movement this week. In state after state, the people rejected the starvation tax policies of the Norquistas and reaffirmed their shared commitment to investment in essential public services. Looking ahead to 2006, this week's vote represents a stern warning to Don McIntire and his government-gutting allies at the Taxpayer Association of Oregon and FreedomWorks.

The triumph of common sense started in Colorado last week. There, voters overwhelmingly supported a suspension of the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) in the face of deficits topping $3 billion. Republican Governor Bill Owen, who came to office championing TABOR, backed the campaign to undue the damage to the state. As Governor Owen concluded, "I can't imagine what Colorado would have looked like if we'd lost. Coloradans looked at a complicated issue and did the right thing."

California, too, rejected spending straight-jackets. Soon-to-be ex-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put his remaining political capital behind Measure 76, which would have mandated severe limitations on the growth of state spending. As with his other proposals, the people of California decisively rejected by 62%-38% Arnold's formula for defunding essential government services.

Even virulently anti-tax Washington toed the line when it comes to common sense government investment in needed public infrastructure. Voters there turned back a repeal of the state's gasoline tax increase, revenue from which is funding a broad range of badly needed transportation and other infrastructure projects. Passage of Initiative 912 would have stripped $5.5 billion of out of the state's massive $8.5 billion transportation package. Voters in gridlocked King County (Seattle) and Snohomish County overwhelmingly rejected 912.

While President Bush and the Republican leadership in Washington press ahead with crippling spending cuts and $70 billion in tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans, in the states the voters have clearly articulated a different set of priorities and support for the public good. Over the past week, anti-government zealots like Norquist and Schwarzenegger were, in the words of neo-con godfather Irving Kristol, "mugged by reality." In 2006, the slash-and-burn crowd backing spending handcuffs in Oregon ignore those lessons at their peril.

UPDATE (11/10): Jeff Mapes has a piece today in The Oregonian previewing the upcoming 2006 ballot measures in Oregon.  The article includes background on three initiatives being pushed by Russ Walker and FreedomWorks Oregon (spending limits, new parental notification barriers to reproductive health care, limits on political spending by public employee unions) similar to those that just went down to defeat in California.

Comments

  • paul (unverified)
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    Oregon should be embarassed again that our neighbors to the north realize that not every tax is a bad tax. Washington's schools are already far better funded than ours, from K-college. Now their highway and transportation system will also remain superior.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    paul, You say, "Washington's schools are already far better funded than ours, from K-college"

    I would be interested in the data you cite? As far as K-12, the information I have is that Oregon funds K-12 "per student", better than Washington every year for the last 15 years.

    From NEA (June 2005), "Current Expenditures for Public K-12 Schools Per Student in ADA, 2003-04" Oregon $8,575.00, Washington $7,904.00.

    There are four different measurements used to measure state support for K-12 and consistently, Oregon led Washington in every method.

    Also, "Per capita State & Local Government Expenditures for Higher Education", Oregon $721.00, Washington $656.00.

    Also,

  • LT (unverified)
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    It is a big wide world out there on the Internet when looking for statistics.

    We are all aware of how much Bailie relies on the NEA statistics he quoted above. But I have a hard time believing those are the only statistics out there. So I Googled the phrase "Current Expenditures for Public K-12 Schools Per Student " and discovered they have more than 10 pages of links.

    This is supposed to be a topic on rejecting spending limits, so let's not turn this into "believe my statistics--the only way to have more teachers in the classroom is to lower teacher compensation", OK?

    That has been covered ad infinitem, ad nauseum, whatever, on other topics.

    Now if anyone has a comment on Gov. Owens of Colorado and Referendum C, or Gov. Arnold and the just defeated spending limit, or whether the gas tax repeal has been decided or will go to a recount, write it here.

    Did that rockslide onto that major Washington state highway, or the earthquake vulnerability of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle have an effect on the closeness of the gas tax repeal measure? What would Colorado have looked like had Referendum C gone the other way?

    But leave the discussion of teacher salaries for elsewhere, please.

    Or else people may decide that Bailie is a robot who cannot post a comment without talking about teacher salary comparisons based on NEA statistics. There is more to life, and more to state budgets, than teacher compensation.

  • Karen (unverified)
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    LT, Bailie never mentioned "teacher compensation"

    She did respond to an earlier by listing the "spending copmparisons" facts.

    If you "Googled the phrase "Current Expenditures for Public K-12 Schools Per Student " and discovered they have more than 10 pages of links. "

    How many of the links contradicted Bailies NEA statistics?

    I'll guess none and you never checked.

    Because you want to stay on topic and avoid discussing the facts.

    Washington spends less on education and gets more.

    It is highly likely they also spend wiser in other areas.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Google is a wonderful thing. Having discovered that in a previous comment Bailie quoted "Oregon's Report Card" with the author listed below (Larry Huss --any relation to former State GOP Chair Walter Huss who ran in the Republican primary in 1998?)I looked up that title and author on Google.

    And was linked to Oregon Watchdog.com, the anti-tax group.

    Jason Williams, Don McInitire & Co. had a friendly House in the 2005 session. They could have had a public debate saying "the only way to have lower class size is to lower teacher compensation". I don't recall that public debate. That isn't what the Speaker's Plan said.

    So let's be honest here. Is Bailie part of Oregon Watchdog?

    And Karen claims Bailie is female. Does that imply that Karen and Bailie know each other?

    Two things:

    1)The Bailie approach is not likely to convince Blue Oregonians that the only thing necessary for lower class size is lowering teacher compensation. There are a number of flaws, not the least of which is that to the best of my knowledge, Oregon does not have a statewide teacher compensation system. Salem-Keizer has a majority of new school board members at least partly due to raises given to administrators but not to teachers--and the voters got angry about that.

    Proposals like Bailie's do not address the difference in salary for administrators and teachers. Is the claim that every school in Oregon spends $8,575.00 per student Average Daily Attendance ?

    Does that money cover the Superintendent salary (the same in every district?) fuel for school busses (the same in urban and rural areas?) and all the other expenses from food service to educating special needs students? Is the cost of the library and the counselors the same in every school, every district? Does every school spend the same amount per student ADA on text books, computers, art supplies, office supplies? Or is this an average, with some schools spending more and some far less? If one school per county were checked, would all 36 schools in that sample be spending exactly $8,575.00 per student ADA? Or could the claims withstand that sort of scrutiny if someone had the resources to do that sort of research?

    This was the quote above from Bailie:

    "From NEA (June 2005), "Current Expenditures for Public K-12 Schools Per Student in ADA, 2003-04" Oregon $8,575.00, Washington $7,904.00.

    There are four different measurements used to measure state support for K-12 and consistently, Oregon led Washington in every method."

    Does Washington have a statewide teacher salary? Does Washington have statewide teacher health care (which Oregon doesn't have although some have tried to save money that way)? Or is that not one of the 4 measures?

    2) Practicality. Even if every Blue Oregonian was convinced and said "all right Bailie, you win, we need to lower teacher compensation to have more teachers", that wouldn't make it happen. HOW to do this is never addressed. Would this be done by abrogating all current contracts? Or would all compensation be lessened as contracts come up for renewal? Would all Blue Oregonians agreeing to this guarantee that the next session of the legislature will contain 16 Senators and 31 state reps. to pass such legislation? Would the courts approve?

    Perhaps the folks who support the Bailie approach should converge on Sandy and convince the folks there in the Oregon Trail District that they should just go with lower teacher compensation because a group which has been blogging the idea say so.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    LT,

    You are the one that keeps bringing this back to "teacher compensation".

    1) I have never been associated with any political organization, other than party affiliation. The problem of K-12 funding is because of special interest groups influencing political decisions. The function of the special interest groups, does not coincide with the interests of the students of Oregon.

    2) You say, "The Bailie approach is not likely to convince Blue Oregonians that the only thing necessary for lower class size is lowering teacher compensation." Firstly, I never suggested lowering teacher compensation. I did say that we need to lower the rate of increase to a manageable rate. Secondly, I have asked for a couple of months, specifically what "Blue Oregonians" would suggest for a K-12 funding solution, and there have been zero suggestions. Mainly your complaints about National Education Association statistics (and all of the rest).

    3) You say, "Proposals like Bailie's do not address the difference in salary for administrators and teachers."

    I am talking about all K-12 employees including administration, teachers and classified.

    4) You ask, "Does that money cover the Superintendent salary (the same in every district?) fuel for school busses .......

    The data is collected consistently from state to state using the same methods. The National Education Association isn't out to make Oregon look good or bad (if that is what you are implying).

    5) You ask, "Or is this an average, with some schools spending more and some far less? If one school per county were checked, would all 36 schools in that sample be spending exactly $8,575.00 per student ADA?"

    It is the average for the state and it is calculated using the same method for every state. The data is consistent from all of the sources I have evaluated. The NEA is not an aberration as you seem to suggest.

    6) You ask, "Or would all compensation be lessened as contracts come up for renewal?" Yes.

    7) You ask, "Would all Blue Oregonians agreeing to this guarantee ...."

    You keep implying that this is a "Blue" - "Red" issue. That is where you are having a problem understanding. This should not have anything to do with political agendas. The agenda should be, what is best for Oregon K-12 and the students. Not "Blue Oregonians" trying to protect the status of special interest groups.

    8) What is your solution to Oregon K-12 funding problems? Could you be specific?

  • DAH (unverified)
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    Bailie,

         Perhaps you could best invite this thread over to the one you are engaged in on Oregonlive's Oregon forum where you invited them to check this thread out.
    

    For everyone else who is actually interested in discussing the post - carry on ! Talkingpointsmemo.com has some interesting posts on the playout of last night's elections.

    While it is quite gleeful to watch the current leaders of the GOP implode on their own lies, I do hope that in the long run, it will bring more people to the political table to sanely discuss where we are headed and where we want to be. It definitely feels like a sea change where people are waking up to the realization that the Wal-Martization of both the public and private sector will only lead to a drastic decline in every American's standard of living...except for the Waltons and a few other robber barons.

  • LT (unverified)
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    DAH, Thanks for the suggestions. Over at Oregonlive.com Oregon Forum, some nice person is reviving the Seizemore nickname with an interesting post. And Talking Points was also interesting.

  • Karen (unverified)
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    I haven't the slightest idea who Bailie is. The name sounded like a she.

    What is all the baloney about?

    Bailie (he or she) responded to

    Paul's "Washington's schools are already far better funded than ours, from K-college"

    I have no idea what is going on here but the fact that Washington spends less and gets more in education seems to be too much to handle or address as adults on this blog.

    What's the problem? Are there taboo issues on this blog?

    If some of you believe the search for remedies can be successful while ignoring everything you don't want to hear you'll never contribute to anything but more trouble.

    Seems to me the "Wal-Martization" of our schools is being perpetrated by those running them for years.

    Especailly since we know for certain they had enough money but couldn't spend it with any sense of priorities.

    Talk about parties and elections all you want but with the same people doing the same things more blues and more money will make things worse not better.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    Oregon Watchdog.com, the anti-tax group.

    You say that like its a bad tihng. What the hell is wrong with being "anti-tax"?

    Or a better question, when will it be enough? I seriously think some people just want us to hand our paychecks over to the government, and then let them give us what we need.

  • LT (unverified)
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    If someone says "I oppose new taxes, support tax cuts, and here is my list of specific cuts to pay for the tax cuts" that is fine.

    But how many actually do that? I am very proud of my state senator who was in charge of a subcommittee of Ways and Means in 2003. Not that I always agree with my state senator, but I believe that "As long as I am chair, this committee will pass these budget cuts, but those budget cuts are too severe and will never leave this committee" is why we pay legislators a salary. Being on the public payroll should require talking specifics with the public.

    I have no problem with "say it loud, I am anti-tax and proud" if that is combined with specifics on budget cuts AND the anti-tax person is someone who works to find the votes to make the cuts.

    However, I am fed up with "There is too much government spending. Period. End of discussion. Only a pro-tax person would ask details about cuts. "

    So Jon, by all means, go out and campaign for anti-tax candidates and causes. Just don't expect all Oregonians to accept the generalities and not ask for the details.

  • StumpTownDARE (unverified)
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    How about instead of refering to us as "Anti-tax", instead call us anti-frivilous. Land giveaways, software SNAFU's, PGE bids, the convention center, the SoWat district, tax abated condos for millionaires, failed light-rail vote after failed light-rail vote, etc...... There is more to the issue than just financing government but an acutal philosophy about what government's role really should be.

    Colorado and Oregon are wolrds apart on this issue. A few years under TABOR (just like a few years of economic drought) and the public begins to see a level of fiscal responsiblity and prioritization you don't see in Oregon currently. Trust in government's ability to be responsible may have returned to Colorado.

    BlueOregon has people criticising Jack Bog but he's relaying common senese. He is not alone.

    Given Multnomah County's inability to provide basic services while jousting multiple windmills you don't have a strong foundation to fight a TABOR initiative in Oregon. As long as the PDC keeps giving away prime land and free money to developers your also going to face real issues pushing for any additional taxes in Portland.

    Your only card to play is holding schools hostage, that won't work for ever. The surrounding counties just ran from a tax-coalition with Multnomah county because they knew it would hurt their chances of raising funds.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Aside from being Portland-centric ("failed light rail vote after failed light rail vote" doesn't mean much to people in maybe 30 counties who might relish not having to drive long distances to work)

    this argument falls apart: Your only card to play is holding schools hostage, that won't work for ever. The surrounding counties just ran from a tax-coalition with Multnomah county because they knew it would hurt their chances of raising funds.

    There are people who read this blog who have never lived in Multnomah, Clackmas, or Washington counties. They have a right to see in print the priorities of those who think there is plenty of tax money and the tax system doesn't need any changes. "Given Multnomah County's inability..." does not apply to people in other parts of the state.

    As a matter of fact, there are those who don't read Blue Oregon very often because it can be quite Portland-centric.

    Truly serious people would say they lobbied the legislature to cut specific budget items. Of course, since the budget process was so secret in the 2005 session, who knows what was truly discussed.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Karen asks, "What's the problem? Are there taboo issues on this blog?"

    1) It does seem that no one will discuss K-12 funding solutions, and

    2) It is interesting that there seems to be no discussion of the ugly Oregon Trails School District strike.

    These are among the most important problems facing Oregon now, and the next 20 years.

  • Frank Republican (unverified)
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    Ohhh, so suddenly tax increases win by more than just Multnomah County. I though I lived in Oregon where it took a high turnout and maximized win in Multnomah County and Lane County for every tax increase ever. Hey, remember M30 and the sales-tax after sales-tax from the last thirty years? I bet you'd say that history doesn't "hold up either."

    Unless your firing on all eight cylinders in Portland its going to be dead in the water. The surrounding county schools have a strong chance of passing their funding priorities without Portland in the mix. Portland's funding is the only one in question when put up to a vote. Why is Portland's tax measure risking when everyone in Portland vote's liberally across the board by 70%?

    Why, because any government body in Portland has prioritization issues. They would rather buiild monuments (either new programs or actual UR funded projects) rather than actually concentrate on nuts and bolts management. These monuments don't exactly wring the bell of average voters (think Jack Bog but not as persnickety).

    To even imply that TABOR will fail in Oregon because it failed in Colorado is to put your head in the sand. TABOR is a blunt instrument, forcing everyone to become fiscally conservative. Most people don't like it but if put forward as an option they'll vote for it to simply put a straight-jacket on spending.

    Colorado's recent five year hiatus from TABOR isn't a "stern warning." In fact from what I'm seeing its even more of an invitation. Anytime the city wants to expand financing beyond inflation they need to request premission from the people. Think about that. You don't think that will sell in a voter pamplet?

    TABOR might pass in Portland so therefore it will pass statewide. Call it "Portland-centric" if you want, but its electoral math that works.

    Hey, this is the longest I've recently stayed up on BlueOregon without someone pulling my comments down. I always find it interesting how some of your liberal contributors actual spit mental abuse and they are allowed to stay up, but when someone actually wants to engage your contributors from a different point of view it's removed.

  • Marvinlee (unverified)
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    "Being on the public payroll should require talking specifics with the public." I am pleased to find a point of agreement with LT. We would nearly all, but not quite all, benefit from greater disclosure of specifics from public employees.

    More is needed, however, than just specifics. Public information disclosures can be arranged and packaged to genuinely enhance public comprehension and understanding. But too often, information is released in forms difficult to understand, complex to access, and accompanied by efforts to channelize the information to selected groups.

    I believe that much of the public distrust of elected and appointed officials originated with a lack of candor and disclosure.

  • LT (unverified)
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    I believe that much of the public distrust of elected and appointed officials originated with a lack of candor and disclosure.

    One of the best ways to combat that is to tell elected officials (to their face, in email, in phone calls) who you trust because they gave you a straight answer, and who you don't trust because you asked a simple question and didn't get a responsive answer. For instance, there are only 3 valid answers to "Do you support HB 1234?".

    They are: Yes No Undecided (hopefully with a reason like "the premise is sound, but some of the wording and other details bother me" or "not yet studied it" or "concerned about Section 5").

    No ideology in that, just practicality. Anyone who has ever worked in sales/ customer service knows people in such jobs are required to provide responsive answers in a courteous manner. People who don't give responsive courteous answers get disciplined or fired--sometimes even if a demonstrator for a particular company who is on the payroll of the company says "Here are the 3 ways our model is superior to their equivalent model" and the customer doesn't like their tone of voice.

    It is like the question about whether campaigns are run with voters in mind, or with politicians and their staffs in mind.

    My experience is that the candidates who run elections that are about the voters (Q & A with a live audience of whoever wanted to come, published positions on issues, lots of grass roots activity) are winners more often than those who think it is about the candidates telling the voters what to think.

    I think the classic case of that is Jan. 1996 when Ron Wyden had those "ice cream socials" where he stood in front of an audience for an hour answering questions (I was at one of those) as opposed to Gordon Smith's "we're all real tired of career politicians" ads.

    <h2>Seems to me that the wise candidates in 2006 will emphasize the 2 way communication of actually having dialogue with voters whenever possible. The nasty ads which tell people what they are supposed to believe (as if they can't think for themselves) often fail--just look at the Virginia attacks Kilgore did on Kaine and the death penalty, and now Kaine is Gov.-elect and even some Republicans are saying the nasty ads were a mistake.</h2>

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