Oregonians standing up against the national anti-tax movement

By Edward Hershey of Portland, Oregon. Hershey has spent 50 years as a communicator with stints in journalism, government, education and labor. He is SEIU Local 503's communications director.

Can front-line Oregon workers in perpetually under-funded community-based human service programs effectively promote tax fairness and protect the vital role they play for their clients in the January referral vote?

That's the premise of Empower Oregon, a campaign bringing together workers dedicated to providing opportunities to live with independence and dignity for the individuals with mental, illness; adults with developmental disabilities; individuals struggling to overcome substance abuse addictions and people who are homeless.

The campaign website at EmpowerOregon.org, went live Friday and not a minute too soon, providing an impassioned response to the large corporations and out-of-state special interests who appear to have turned in enough signatures to force an election this January on taxing large corporations and wealthy Oregonians to generate $733 million in revenue to support the kind of services these workers provide.

Empower Oregon is at the heart of a campaign by workers to stand up for themselves and their clients. It is the brainchild of several SEIU Local 503 colleagues of mine who see these areas as part of the next frontier in Oregon's quest to provide human services more effectively and at less cost in non-governmental community settings. That's how SEIU helped to dramatically improve the quality and availability of such other services in Oregon as home care for seniors and people with disabilities, foster care for adults with physical or mental illness and child care for the working poor.

But Empower Oregon has a more immediate agenda: bringing workers together to defend the modest funding their programs now receive against the onslaught of the national anti-tax movement in January's referral votes. The case they make is embodied in a series of poignantly understated testimonials on the new website that provide a window into a world many of us rarely see as we go about our own lives.

Brad Bishop, who works at a group home for five disabled adult males in Beaverton, describes what it takes to preserve their independence and dignity and promote a modicum of happiness in their lives and why staff turnover hampers those goals. "It's a difficult job," Bishop says into the camera "It's not something that very many people can do. It's hands on, it's dirty at times and it really requires the workers to maintain a highly positive attitude in order for everything to go smoothly. It's really hard for new people to come into this situation, so high turnover just kind of throws chaos into these guys' lives."

Saige Gracie from Project Metamorphosis explains how she tries to connect homeless teens to treatment, housing, training and jobs. "There's a great deal of heroin in downtown Portland for right now so I am seeing a whole lot of the younger population using a drug that is extremely high risk as fare as safety and infectious disease," says Gracie, who sneaks in "motivational interviews" escorting strung out kids to a needle exchange, stressing "what addiction is like and what recovery can look like."

A saint of a nurse named Courtney Nyman, who has spent 15 years tending to psychotic and addicted patients, rues the desperate lack of such services for shortening lives and shortchanging taxpayers left poorer and less safe by alternatives. "Many times when these services are unavailable the people seeking them end up in emergency care situations or in criminal custody neither of which are equipped to deal with addiction or acute psychiatric care," Nyman says, echoing police, corrections and state hospital officials.

And Scott Crabtree, who volunteers at community facilities that operate under contracts with the Oregon Youth Authority, describes his role in reclaiming in turning one young life around but adds: "If funding for these types of programs is cut, these kids are going to be out on the streets. They're going to be committing petty crimes and serious crimes in our neighborhoods There's just no question about it."

Comments

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    ...turned in enough signatures to force an election this January on taxing large corporations...

    It has previously been shown in several prior threads that of companies with >$50,000 in Oregon taxable income, only 2.9% paid the $10 minimum. If so few of large corporations pay the minimum, who do you think is going to be the most effected by this tax increase?

  • Mud Falcon (unverified)
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    "...out-of-state special interests who appear to have turned in enough signatures to force an election this January"

    "Out of state special interests?" Facts, please. I think you have this wrong-- this is a home grown Oregon effort.

  • Mud Falcon (unverified)
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    Ed, let's talk about out of state interests in Oregon politics. I note that in the 2008 Oregon state elections, the public employee unions spent about $17 million. How much of this came from out of state labor entities?

  • Mud Falcon (unverified)
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    Let's follow the money. Gee, I see $4,000,000+ in out of state labor money on just the first page of this report.

    http://www.followthemoney.org/database/StateGlance/contributor_details.phtml?s=OR&y=2008&g%5B%5D=12

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    ""Out of state special interests?" Facts, please. I think you have this wrong-- this is a home grown Oregon effort. "

    Ha, that's a funny one. Freedomworks is run by Dick Armey.

    And maybe the unions that operate here wouldn't have to kick in so much, if some guy from NEVADA weren't dumping millions on Bill Sizemore in order to run the same previously defeated Measures over and over...

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Hey Edward, how much of SEIU/OPEU 503's over $20MILLION in revenue went into this website and funding for "Empower Oregon"? Maybe your membership would like to know up front rather than wait for next year's mandatory filing.

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    Hey Edward, how much of SEIU/OPEU 503's over $20MILLION in revenue went into this website and funding for "Empower Oregon"? Maybe your membership would like to know up front rather than wait for next year's mandatory filing.

    Lots, I hope. With all the high powered lobbying and corporate money going to defeat tax measures to increase the corporate minimum and shift the tax burden off the middle class, that seems like a good use of dollars.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Kurt, given that SEIU represents public employees, do you really believe they all think being involved with a measure which could impact their workplaces if not their jobs would be a waste of money?

    TJ and Carla make good points in that regard.

    Why is it OK for rich people/companies to spend a ton of money but labor groups pushing back by spending money are somehow suspect?

    Even some of the old time lobbyists who were members of the Public Comm. on the Legislature were angry at the amount of out of state money which pours into this state to put measures on the ballot.

    How much Oregon money went into putting the measures on the ballot? Seems like any Oregon company which put a ton of money into that cause shouldn't scream that they would be impoverished if the taxes are upheld.

    A former co-worker was working most days of the week, sometimes all 7 days. Until she found a full time job, she was working temp. jobs during the week, a product demonstrator job maybe 5 hours per day on weekends. The sort of hard working but barely making ends meet person who so often is ignored in political debates.

    Her view of campaign finance reform was that for every dollar contributed to a political cause, a dollar should be contributed to a charity helping needy people.

    Given the economic downturn, my guess is that there may be more people with her view of lavish political spending to put such a measure on the ballot than there may have been previously.

    And don't kid yourself. There are plenty of un-unionized hard working people who tell their friends they are thrilled that someone has the money to stand up to Sizemore, Freedomworks, etc. trying to run the state by way of ballot measures as if elected officials don't really matter.

  • Cheese and Crackers (unverified)
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    It has previously been shown in several prior threads that of companies with >$50,000 in Oregon taxable income, only 2.9% paid the $10 minimum. If so few of large corporations pay the minimum, who do you think is going to be the most effected by this tax increase?

    Companies with less than $50,000 in taxable income won't pay any more under the profits tax, since it only applies to larger companies. If they're paying the minimum, they'll be paying $150. BTW, I'm pretty sure we all pay more than that every time a Saudi prince gets a hangnail and gas prices go up.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Companies with less than $50,000 in taxable income won't pay any more under the profits tax, since it only applies to larger companies.

    Going from $10 to $150 is a pretty substantial percentage increase don't ya think?

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    I was merely pointing out that the richest union in the state can not use members dues for political activity without the members authorization.

    Bottom line, SEIU/OPEU 503 has done and excellent job advocating for their membership. The 18,500 members have the richest benefits package nationally. Unfortunately those bargaining for those of us who pay that bill have no interest in actually being responsible advocates for the taxpayer.

  • Robert Collins (unverified)
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    "perpetually under-funded community-based human service programs"

    First of all you have to buy this premise. Secondly, if you do buy this premise you need to lay the cause on where it rightly belongs. PERS. Our public employee pension system is unsustainable. The claim that is has been addressed is specious, as you will notice if you read the front page of yesterday's Oregonian. (Nice also to note that the great PERS fund managers are all getting bonuses).

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    (Nice also to note that the great PERS fund managers are all getting bonuses).

    I am hugely in favor of smallish bonuses targeted to specific government workers who do outstanding work. It is a piece of the "libertarian paternalism" (google it) theory pushed by Goolsbee and the rest of the self described "propeller heads" in the Obama administration. It is the best example I've seen in years of progressives interested in promoting behavior that best serves all of us.

    In government it works to increase efficiency, something that should be favored by those interested in getting the best bang for the tax dollar.

  • Mud Falcon (unverified)
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    Pat: Couldn't agree more--- PERS is a great example of increased efficiency in government. Oregonians are really getting bang for our tax buck with this program.

    I am puzzled by your last statement ("something that should be favored by those interested in getting the best bang for the tax dollar"). You mean there are those in the state who are not interested in getting the best value out of our tax dollars? Maybe I'm wrong, but I didn't think this was just a concern of the righty wing-nut conservatives.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    OK, last year PERS tanked at a rate worse than the S&P 500. Why would there even be discussion about a bonus let alone issuing them conveniently shortly before the shor drops of the three-fold increase in contributions required due to that tanking?

    For the Record, I also in favor of specific accomplishment bonuses for all levels of government. However they need to be based upon recognized, objective, measureable goals.

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    However they need to be based upon recognized, objective, measurable goals.

    Absolutely.

    If this idea gets any traction, it should be coupled with transparency so that:

    The public can see instantly how effective such programs are within a given agency and;

    Other government agencies will be encouraged to adopt the system.

    <hr/>

    Virtually all employees whether public or private will tell you that money drives them, but it's been my experience that recognition for outstanding behavior is at least as important to employee efficiency and retention.

    <hr/>

    And before anyone asks, no, I cannot speak to the uility of the PERS bonuses under discussion. Not enough information.

  • matthew (unverified)
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    how about bonuses for us in the private sector?i am getting sick and tired of the same old liberal song and dance that they are so short of money but at the same time they have millions of dollars to hand out bonuses,blow money on consultnats and fatten everyones bloated pers pensions.when is the left wing insanity in this state going to stop?

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Mud Falcon:

    Ed, let's talk about out of state interests in Oregon politics.

    Bob T:

    Don't you know already? Out of state money is bad -- unless it comes from George Soros et al. Why these people like a creep like Soros is beyond me. Ever read about the ways he makes mega-millions? What a puke.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • Cecil (unverified)
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    "Standing up" to the anti-tax movement? You believe higher taxes are the answer? You would rather have more of your money go to the government? Ridiculous.

  • Brad (unverified)
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    "And maybe the unions that operate here wouldn't have to kick in so much, if some guy from NEVADA weren't dumping millions on Bill Sizemore in order to run the same previously defeated Measures over and over..."

    Bill Sizemore is not involved in any way with what is going on right now. I am sorry that you have such a problem with voters actually getting to vote on an issue rather then the government pushing it down our throats.

  • tax jobs (unverified)
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  • Fireslayer (unverified)
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    Anti-tax movements are the keys to the Republican organizing sucker punching. They killed Federal Revenue sharing during the Covenant to Nowhere years. Then they emasculated State and County budgets.

    Then when Democrats try to fund and deliver necessary services they attack them for being "tax and spend." Even when many of the services are much desired by rank and file Republicans. And then just enough working class folks they sucker into supporting them on largely irrelevant hot button issues keep them in the game.

    When are people going to learn once and for all that the Republican Party is morally and intellectually bankrupt and unfit to control a government that they profess to hate and are not by character or ability qualified or capable of running.

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