Penny Wise & Pound Foolish-Our Legislature at Work!

Jo Ann Hardesty

Reading todays article in the Oregonian regarding the legislative override of the Governor's education budget makes me mad.  While I rarely agree with the Governor's priorities, he is right about this.  He proposed to allow for $5.6 Billion dollars of funds to be released for the 2010/2011 budget year for K-12 education with $400 million held back in reserve to see what happens to the economy is a wise approach and makes good sense in the current economy.

Legislative leaders in their wisdom want to allocate the full allotment of funds now. Why? With the 2nd highest unemployment in the country and with anti-tax forces standing at the ready to refer many of the tax proposals passed this session to voters, the conclusion is simple, this is a stupid move by people who should know better.

So what happens when unemployment continues to rise and voters reject proposed tax increases?  We hold special sessions to cut budgets across the board, shorten the school year and release prisoners early!

This is not leadership!  How disappointing to the voters who thought this majority had the political courage to do the job they were hired to do.

Comments

  • Myranda Bates (unverified)
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    You're so right, Jo Ann. The legislative leaders are not thinking ahead--not even to 2010. And who knows what they "sold" to get that veto-override vote in the House. Meanwhile, they can't even get it together to enact the Gov's proposed jobs bill. I thought Ds were supposed to be concerned about Oregon's working class, but apparently not.

  • Cafe Today (unverified)
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    The Governor was never helpful in this discussion, or any other discussion that has happened this legislative session. He just came in at the end in what most chalked up to a lame attempt to be relevant. Fortunately, our legislators had the balls to call his bluff and come out on top. Kudos to them for standing strong.

  • Boats (unverified)
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    I totally agree with you Ms. Bowman. The entire "strategery" of the majority is in trying to confuse the voters during the coming tax increase slaughters at the ballot. What verve! What foresight! What. . .ah, never mind, I'd like to see someone who cares for the current crop of "leaders" try and defend their genius. All I see are faux-elitist morons who think their obfuscation move on the coming referenda is going to actually work.

  • (Show?)

    Comprehensive tax reform is what we needed. There was never a serious attempt to attain that either by working with Republicans or by going it alone. The statements coming out of the legislature and the governor's office as far back as January signaled that the two were on different planets. A lot of good got done this term, but the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of double super-majorities and a crisis big enough to sustain the public's attention and willingness for reform was sadly wasted.

    Jo Ann, I hope your predictions about the emergency session cuts and the voters overturning the modest tax increases that were passed proves to be wrong. I'm afraid I wouldn't bet that way though.

  • (Show?)

    Jamais,

    I agree comprehensive tax reform is what was needed. I'm not taking away some good legislation that passed this session but at the state (just like the national) it appears D's have a hard time actually leading.

    I hope my predictions are wrong as well but I've see this game too often to be anything but resigned to this reality.

    Cafe Today,

    Are you kidding me! Standing strong for what? An unrealistic budget that they will not be able to maintain. That's stupidity not courage!

    Myranda,

    Thanks for your kind words. We need new leaders today!

  • Michael B (unverified)
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    The legislature's move is not stupid. What is stupid is the governor's plan to cut education fire teachers causing even more unemployment than we have now.

    While things can always get worse, nobody can deny that the current recession is the worst in generations, and it is difficult to conceive of "days" any more "rainy" than these. The legislature is only spending half of the reserve funds, leaving half in case they are needed later. It is a wise, judicious, commonsense move and the legislature should be applauded for their thoughtful action.

  • (Show?)

    It is not "leadership" to kowtow to a tax averse citizenry in the face of a budget hole. That is just the kind of spineless thinking that have helped Oregon slip into mediocrity over the past decade.

    The taxes that have been proposed are long overdue and are extremely modest.

    If Oregonian voters reject the tax increases then they (we) deserve precisely the budget outcomes that will ensue.

    Kudos to the legislature for standing up to the last minute attempt by a lame duck governor to remain relevant. Now the onus is on our legislature leadership to educate the public about why a more progressive tax system and a modest gas tax increase are vital to keeping Oregon moving forward.

    Let the true political debate now begin.

  • Michael B (unverified)
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    Even that bleeding-heart liberal Bill Sizemore has said it is doubtful opponents of the tax measures will succeed in collecting enough signatures for a referral, let alone winning the vote. Oregonians are sick and tired of the corrupt knee-jerk anti-tax crowd. After 80 years of a $10 minimum corporate tax, popular opinion is well on the side of an increase, and if by some unlikely chance enough signatures are collected, the vote will overwhelmingly uphold the tax increase. Furthermore, the slight tax increase on rich households who are still prospering even in the recession is a common-sense, pragmatic policy. If that measure gets referred, tax opponents are going to have a hard time arguing we should instead fire teachers, firefighters and policemen in the middle of the worst recession in generations. If either of these measures get referred, voters will uphold them by a wide margin.

  • LT (unverified)
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    "Even that bleeding-heart liberal Bill Sizemore has said it is doubtful opponents of the tax measures will succeed in collecting enough signatures for a referral, let alone winning the vote. Oregonians are sick and tired of the corrupt knee-jerk anti-tax crowd."

    Michael B, you are a hero!

    I just wrote an email this morning to a TV station for making the whole debate just between Russ Walker and House Dems as if we citizens are just voters! Thanks for saying what many are thinking!

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    Michael B,

    Since you believe Bill Sizemore is a liberal there is no need to respond to you.

  • Bob Baldwin (unverified)
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    No.

    Simply stated, Democrats need to be stronger in standing for our values, not weaker and more eager to compromise.

    Our schools are chronically under-funded. We need to do all we can to reverse that trend.

    Compromising on school funding "just in case" the anti-tax crowd puts another referral on the ballot is not consistent with progressive values.

    Beyond that, looking at the purely political aspects of this, if the R's do put another referal on the ballot, we should welcome the opportunity to make the case: school funding or tax breaks for the wealthy? Any Democratic leaders who won't make that case shouldn't be Democratic leaders.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    The tax referral is the weakest part of this argument. The reason why the governor was right is that there is a high likelihood tax revenues are not going to be there, tax referral or not. By allocating the additional $200 million, all the Dems have done is tell school districts to budget more money than they are probably going to get. So next year, when the economy is still in the tank, the legislature is going to cut school spending by at least $200 million, and schools will scramble to adjust -- rather than planning for it now, which is always less painful.

    Our schools are chronically under-funded. We need to do all we can to reverse that trend.

    And this does nothing to reverse that trend except create greater chaos when we cut spending mid-year. You cannot spend money you don't have, no matter what the legislature allocates.

  • myranda bates (unverified)
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    Michael B., you wrote:

    "While things can always get worse, nobody can deny that the current recession is the worst in generations, and it is difficult to conceive of "days" any more "rainy" than these."

    Hold on to your sou'wester, Michael, because next February, when the legislature meets again, Oregon will still be in a recession and the rain will come down, and the legislature will take back every extra dollar that they just gave to the schools. And there won't be a rainy day fund.

  • (Show?)

    I'm with the speaker and his crew on this one. The governor has remained aloof and dare I say....arrogantly distant from the day-to-day travails of the legislature, but wants to mark his territory at the end of the session.

    Will someone that favors the governor's POV tell me how having the $400 million available two years from now is going to resolve the issues of a budget that will run around $15 billion?

    School districts all over the state wound up cutting positions in this round, even with the leg including the paltry overall percentage provided by "rainy day" funds.

    At least here in Sandy, a board member at breakfast told me that they were able to save the core teaching positions while laying off some support staff and getting some early retirements. Board members were very happy to get things dealt with now, while realizing that the next biennium may well be a bloodbath.......

  • geoff sugerman (unverified)
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    What the 5.8 plus $200 million plan does is allow school districts to know they are fairly certain to get $2.9 in each of the next two school years. And it encourages them to budget at the 2.9 billion level for this coming school year.

    Far too many districts were unsure of the $400 million in reserves for the 10-11 school year, and were budgeting at a much lower level for the 09-10 school year, forcing the layoff of far too many teachers and program cuts for THIS COMING year that were just too deep.

    Remember, the Legislative plan still has $500 million in reserves and ending fund balance.

    If our revenues decline more than $500 million, the legislature will still have to make cuts next February, but they won't be soley absorbed by schools; they'll be spread across the budget.

    This really was a fairly minor disagreement over the total amount of reserves ($700 million under the Gov's plan and $500 million under the Legislative plan).

  • Bob Baldwin (unverified)
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    Miles: And this does nothing to reverse that trend except create greater chaos when we cut spending mid-year. You cannot spend money you don't have, no matter what the legislature allocates.

    This is called "failing to secure adequate revenue", and is a self-inflicted problem in Oregon. The solution lies in fixing the single sales factor, the corporate minimum and progressivity in the personal income tax, not in under-funding education.

    Beyond that, Teddy K's choice of K-12, of all budgets, to use as his line in the sand is, IMO, more about political revenge on OEA for his last election than about precision in the economic forecast for FYs 10-11.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    I think I left the bold tag open, so I'll try to fix it?

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Will someone that favors the governor's POV tell me how having the $400 million available two years from now is going to resolve the issues of a budget that will run around $15 billion?

    The $200 million in question isn't for next biennium, it's for the second year of this biennium. And it will all go to schools if the revenue forecasts are accurate. But if things continue to go downhill, the $200 million would be available to plug the hole. If it's not available, schools will be asked to cut $200 million more in 2010-11.

    What the 5.8 plus $200 million plan does is allow school districts to know they are fairly certain to get $2.9 in each of the next two school years. And it encourages them to budget at the 2.9 billion level for this coming school year.

    It doesn't actually do anything to ensure that school districts will get $2.9 billion. It promises them $2.9 billion only if the revenues are there -- and if the revenues are there, they'll get that money under the Governor's plan as well. Your second sentence is correct, it encourages schools to budget at the optimistic amount. I just don't understand why that is better? By that logic, why not tell them to budget assuming $6.2 billion? Or $6.4 billion?

    It is always better to be out in front of an economic storm than to be playing catch-up. That's why a number of school districts were (and still are) budgeting to the lower number. If the extra revenue comes through, they'll add programs back, but if not, they're prepared. PPS, on the other hand, is just crossing its fingers and hoping for economic recovery. That contributes to the feeling of crisis in the schools, when cuts have to be taken at the last minute, year after year. It's an irresponsible way to run the government.

    Look, I would love it if the leg had raised taxes by $2 billion rather than the paltry $700 million they did. But they obviously made a calculation regarding political viability, and whether they were right or wrong remains to be seen. But we know what they decided, and we know what's left to work with, and it requires painful cuts to schools. Telling schools to plan for the additional $200 million just takes us that much closer to the edge, and makes it that much likelier we'll be in special session trying to plug a budget hole.

  • jrw (unverified)
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    Pat: that school board member in Sandy was talking through his or her hat. They didn't cut support staff, they cut teachers. You're not getting the whole story.

    Myranda and JoAnn--what you're missing is the huge number of teacher cuts which will happen as a result of the Kulongoski veto. From the beginning, K was adamant that he was giving less of the stimulus funds to education than other states were, and more to other areas he deemed important. Cut more teachers, and the unemployment rolls go up big-time--start looking at the percentages, and realize that such cuts mean layoffs of around 10-20% in some school districts, if not more. While in smaller districts, that means 10 people or so out of a job, in the larger school districts you start looking at numbers in the hundreds, if not higher. Those numbers add up.

    I'll be interested to see just how the cuts to date affect the unemployment numbers in July and August, depending on when laid off teachers and support staff can officially apply for unemployment. If there's a significant bump there--y'all know where it came from.

  • jrw (unverified)
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    Pat: that school board member in Sandy was talking through his or her hat. They didn't cut support staff, they cut teachers. You're not getting the whole story.

    Myranda and JoAnn--what you're missing is the huge number of teacher cuts which will happen as a result of the Kulongoski veto. From the beginning, K was adamant that he was giving less of the stimulus funds to education than other states were, and more to other areas he deemed important. Cut more teachers, and the unemployment rolls go up big-time--start looking at the percentages, and realize that such cuts mean layoffs of around 10-20% in some school districts, if not more. While in smaller districts, that means 10 people or so out of a job, in the larger school districts you start looking at numbers in the hundreds, if not higher. Those numbers add up.

    I'll be interested to see just how the cuts to date affect the unemployment numbers in July and August, depending on when laid off teachers and support staff can officially apply for unemployment. If there's a significant bump there--y'all know where it came from.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    ”...what you're missing is the huge number of teacher cuts which will happen as a result of the Kulongoski veto.”

    You get a gold star for seeing what this is really all about, the legislature paying off the teacher’s union, one of it’s biggest financial contributors.

    In exchange for this political playback we now face an even worse situation next year when our state is still mired deep in a near depression. This is what you get with one-party rule.

    This time next year the teachers will still have their jobs but the reserve fund will be dry and the rest of us will be looking at 15%+ unemployment.

  • Myranda Bates (unverified)
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    Pat Ryan, you said:

    "The governor has remained aloof and dare I say....arrogantly distant from the day-to-day travails of the legislature, but wants to mark his territory at the end of the session."

    I must disagree. Where have all the great policy initiatives come from in this session? The Gov's office, not the legislature. The jobs bill, the movie industry bill, the water bill in the Umatilla basin, the Klamath bill, the pollution standards bill--all from the Gov's office. If by chance, you mean that he has been "distant" in a physical sense, I remind you that his office in the Capitol burned last winter, and the legislature, which owns the building, won't fix it.

  • Anonymous (unverified)
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    Nobody here even realizes there are $4.9 billion in ending-fund reserves, and 75% of it is available at the legislature's discretion.

    <h2>Sleepy Ted wanted the veto because it hurts schools and makes it easier to raise taxes.</h2>

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