The coming budget cuts

I’m not inclined toward an emergency special session, as that would lead to further uncertainty and unproductive political posturing.

By Rep. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland).

Well, the lousy weather this week served as an ominous precursor to the revenue forecast released Tuesday morning by the State Economist.

The latest projections show a gap of more than $570 million between the funds that have been budgeted for the 09-11 biennium and the revenue that the state expects to bring in. So, what does that really mean?

As much as this is a forecast, it could also be considered a “backcast” (i.e., a lookback), as this is the first forecast since the 2009 state income tax returns came in. As the Department of Revenue has processed these 2009 returns, it has become clear that 2009 was a worse year than we initially realized. As a result, revenue over the 09-11 period is lower than expected and there will need to be cuts in order to balance the budget over the remaining year of the biennium (fiscal year 2010-2011).

In response to this news, Governor Kulongoski held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to announce that he is exercising his “allotment authority” under state law to require across-the-board budget cuts to state services. Under this process, state agencies will have two weeks to prepare a plan to trim their budget by 9% for the coming fiscal year. This requirement is equally applied across every agency that receives General Fund dollars – all agencies will take the same 9% cut.

This 9% cut will have a devastating impact on many of the services that Oregonians rely on. The numbers are staggering:

We legislators will most likely start the cutting process with our own budgets. It’s important for us to recognize that we need to reduce our costs as we ask state agencies to reduce theirs. While the allotment process does not require cuts to the Legislative Branch, I expect that we legislators will reduce our individual budgets by around 9% for the coming year.

Since Governor Kulongoski has exercised his executive authority to reduce the budget across the board, there will most likely not be a special session of the legislature to vote on the budget cuts—across-the-board cuts can be implemented without Legislative approval. If we chose to do so, we could still call ourselves back into an emergency session to make differential cuts to the budget. At this point, though, I’m not inclined to go that way. I see that process as leading to further uncertainty and unproductive political posturing. If, on the other hand, you think I should reconsider and vote to initiate an emergency session, I’d appreciate getting your thoughts ASAP.

Amidst the gloomy forecast, there is reason for hope. There appears to be a good chance that the federal government will be temporarily extending two key aspects of the recovery program: the current higher level of Medicaid payments and the current payments to help public education. If extended, these will be enormously helpful for us over the next couple of years and may allow us to scale back this next round of cuts somewhat. Stay tuned for news on that front.

Moreover, looking down the road, we do continue to see promising signs for the economy moving forward, both nationally and here in Oregon. Revenue from corporate taxes and the lottery are up, and we added more jobs last month in Oregon than in any month since October 2007.

However, we are trying to dig ourselves out of a pretty serious hole. We’re still feeling the effects of the recession and it’s important to realize that it will take some time for the state’s revenue picture to fully recover.

As we look forward to the 2011 session, it will remain my priority to protect those areas of the budget that serve our most vulnerable citizens—children, seniors, low income families and people with mental and physical disabilities. I’m committed to doing what I can to preserve funding for the critical services that Oregonians depend on, as well as to preserve and create jobs wherever possible.

Comments

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    I have watched as 10 of my co-teachers have received the news that their lives have changed, just where I work. Districtwide, in North Clackamas School District, we are looking at a budget gap of $12.5 million.

    It wasn't that long ago that Oregon schools were the focus of ridicule nationwide for having cut days off the school year. It appears that is going to happen again, and at a larger degree.

    I hope our representatives will someday find a plan that will come to a better solution to funding education and other services so the roller coaster will be a part of our past. Telling students that they will no longer be able to choose one of their favorite classes or learn from one of their favorite teachers just may make the difference in whether or not they stay in school.

    I appreciate the work of Rep. Dembrow for trying to find a solution to this seemingly ongoing problem. Yes, I would hope our lawmakers would meet and give our students some hope for the next school year.

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      Respectfully, Rep. Dembrow I disagree with your inclination to sit this out and let the Gov impose a 9% across the board cut on the general fund. Education cannot take this. You are my representative. I know that you share my fervor for a robust public education system. The D's control every lever of power in this state. Use this crisis as the obvious opportunity that it is... be proactive, instead of reactive, or worse passive. Call the special session, have the tough debates, call out our Gov for his many failures (you have to me already behind his back). Be bold, and know that many (likely the majority) voters will support you. We have to solve the fiscal problems facing our state. Get started now, using this forecast as the catalyst for action. I'm tired of considering a "win" as less cuts than planned. I supported 66/67 by campaigning and paid 10's of thousands of dollars with a smile as a result of the passing of 66/67. But, let's face it, all these measures did was make a bad situation less bad. I'm at a point where I truly fear for the impacts of another round of cuts. For our leaders to fail to come together at this time is nothing sort of abrogation of responsibility and complacency in a time of crisis. It's time to shine Rep. Dembrow. Let me know how I can help you.

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    from Hillary Clinton yesterday

    "The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues [the U.S. is], whether it is individual, corporate, whatever the taxation forms are,"

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      Hillary Clinton is absolutely correct, of course. With so many politicans too timid to state the obvious, I'm pleased to see she had such courage.

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    Of course, blame it on the rich. It's always their fault.

    Thank you, Rep. Dembrow, for sharing your thoughts. I happen to agree with you and the Governor. These are difficult times, and state government has to live within its means. Nobody wants to see essential services cut, but it's better to make those choices now, than later when the impacts could be far greater.

    I hope this also does two things:

    1. Creates a realization that there is a limit to the amount of money government can effectively spend on state services.

    2. Force legislators to seriously look at tax reform.

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      The objective fact is that they are not paying their fair share. We want and need the services. They want and need the services. The only reform you are going to see is the people agreeing to raise revenue. And please, don't patronize the middle class, Jason.

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        The objective fact is that Oregon now ranks as the top tier for personal income tax in the entire United States.

        The objective fact is that Oregon has a state government that is too large and non sustaining.

        The onjective fact is that our Governor has been dissapontingly consistent in his avoidance of fiscal restraint and revenue reform.

        The exact same scenario is playing itself out up in King County, WA. The Seattle Times has an excellent editorial that Oregon democrat legislators should heed.

        http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/editorials/2011971528_edit28county.html

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          It's an objective fact that none of the things either of you has listed as objective facts (or "onjective") are actually objective facts.

          I'm not sure about the onjective fact, though.

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          Kurt,

          Of course Oregon ranks high in personal income tax relative to other states (though nor other developed countries). Oregon has no sales tax, dramatic limitations on property taxes, and extremely low business taxes. The necessary money to operate isn't going to fall from the sky. Where else but personal income tax was operating revenue going to come from? There is absolutely no evidence Oregon state government is too large based on the services it is asked to provide. And Oregon state government is unsustainable only to the degree that it is denied the resources required to do its job. The governor and the Legislature have done an admirable job in displaying fiscal restraint considering what they have had to work with. This current government has been no worse than any other at revenue reform. (And they have been somewhat better with the passage of Measures 66 & 67.) Do you fault the Governorn for failing to sell a sales tax when no one else has been able to?

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    Mmmm..given the education cuts over the last number of years, I'm wondering why we're not asking the Dept of Corrections to bear more of this burden.

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      Dream on Carla.

      For one thing M-11 is about one tenth of one percent of the state budget.

      For another attacking it ...again (remember the 75% NO vote for repeal in 2000 in Measure 94?) will become the third rail for legislators in 2010 and beyond.

      The fact is that Oregon judges can sentence OUTSIDE of M-11 for almost any second degree M-11 offense...which is most of them. Even over the prosecutor's objection. And Assault 2, one of the most common M-11 crimes would be like breaking both someone's legs with a baseball bat).

      Ironically for Carla is right about one thing. Jailing a child molester is not mandated. We could go back to when I was a defense attorney and child molesters got probation.

      I joined with Chip Shields and Floyd Prozanski in supporting Measure 57 in opposition to the Republican leasership on the theory it was a measured and balanced approach. For the one year it was allowed to exist before Chip and Floyd turned on it, it cost about $8 million....one tenth of what the voters pamphlet claimed it would.

      Five elected Oregon DAs went on record in support of 66 & 67, it cost Deschutes DA Mike Dugan his career of 23 years. Fortunately my voters didn't hold it against me.

      So please don't think you can get away with gutting one of the few things in Oregon government that has consistently worked - reducing victimization, unless you care nothing for the Democratic majorities.

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        I don't think Carla was talking about Measure 11.

        In any case, Josh, what does it say about Oregon that we're the only state in the union that spends more on corrections than on higher ed?

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          Actually Kari that absolutely what she's talking about:

          "We also have a legal requirement to fully fund schools, and we're not doing that. It seems if we can ditch that law, we can certainly ditch the funding requirements for M11."

          And let's have a little honesty in this "guns or butter" discussion about funding government services.

          Almost 100% of DOC is funded by the State General Fund. Only 12% of Higher Ed is. So much do the UofO President has pretty much written off General Fund support.

          So let's remember (as the son of a UofO college professor) that in Oregon we spend about 8% on ALL corrections programs, including probation, and about 57% of general fund on education.

          That doesn't mean we should spend less on education, it just means that the actual details matter.

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        Dream on, you say? Are all these people locked up under Measure 11 child molesters? Or just the ones you like to drag out for hyperbole's sake? And Measure 57 (which you're complaining about here) isn't about keeping child molesters in jail longer. It's about mandatory minimums property crimes, for crying out loud.

        And in the meantime, we're ONCE AGAIN cutting schools--one of the sure fire things that actually helps keep people out of jail and brings jobs to an area. You'll understand if I'd like to "dream on" about schools not being in a constant budget crisis--as opposed to mandatory minimums for property crimes, Josh. Are those mandatory minimums for property crime drawing small business to our area? Are they bringing jobs? Are they making the economy better? It's factually demonstrable that good, well-funded schools do that very thing. Well-funded prison systems don't seem to have that net-effect.

        There is no reasonable balance when schools are the line item constantly on the chopping block and corrections rarely goes there. In fact, its nuts.

        Perhaps one of these days we can even use the platitude "soft on education"...wouldn't that be swell, too? That'll curl your toes, I'm sure.

        The nation as a whole has a lower crime rate last year, according to FBI statistics. But mandatory minimums are not nationwide, so the causation line you're drawing doesn't fly. If we were to drop mandatory minimums tomorrow, there's no evidence crime would increase. As I understand it, the state of Michigan significantly reformed their mandatory minimum laws a number of years ago and have experienced no increase in crime.

        And honestly, it doesn't make me feel "safer" that education is once again being slashed in favor of a mandatory sentence for someone who committed a property crime. It makes me angry that kids in Oregon are once again on the losing end--and LESS SAFE about the long-term health of our state.

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          Measure 11 sex crimes involve ONLY sex with children or sexual assault. You have to hurt someone badly or with a weapon.

          Measure 57 didn't have any mandatory minimums except for possession of over a pound of heroin or cocaine. That was the competing Measure 61 which was defeated in large part because Oregon DAs supported M57 instead

          Most states (32 of them) passed laws that strengthened truth in sentencing and that is a major reason crime went down.

          But we live in Oregon and there is no question that locking up the 1% who commit 99% of the crime made it safer, particularly for those people most likely to be victimizied...poor people and people of color.

          And for the last time, you don't have to CUT SCHOOLS to adequately fund public safety, unless what you really want to do is simply slash public safety (like the Lane County Commissioners did in 2008 with disasterous results)

          And if you think things have improved in Michigan let me connect you with several DAs there who have a very different view. I hope you do understand that we don't get frequent flyer miles for how many people we send to prison.

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            "Sex crimes"? Like Veronica Rodriguez..?

            http://wweek.com/editorial/3415/10416/

            http://wweek.com/editorial/3427/10973/

            http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2008/05/supreme_court_takes_controvers.html

            SIX years under Measure 11 for rubbing a kid's hair and having the back of his head in her breasts? Really?

            If you have some scientific data that links the lowering of crime rate to mandatory minimums, I'd like to see it, please. The "no question" that locking people up thing might feel fine for your gut, but actual statistics and science would be a lot more reasonable way to make policy decisions than "gut" feelings.

            M57 specifically has mandatory minimums for property crimes, according to the statute:

            http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Oregon_Criminal_Sentence,Measure_57%282008%29#cite_note-4

            Increases Sentences For Drug Trafficking, Theft Against Elderly And Specified Repeat Property And Identity Theft Crimes; Requires Addiction Treatment For Certain Offenders

            You can "for the last time" all you like, but in fact we DO have to cut schools, AGAIN, and we have done so historically without any serious cuts to corrections. Asking schools to continually do this is wrong--especially given that there is no data that mandatory minimums make us safer. And there is no data that demonstrates well-funded prison systems bring us better jobs or an improved economy. Well-funded schools DO--and it is documented.

            As far as Michigan goes, the crime statistics don't appear to match up with the DAs you'd like to connect me with. Major changes in mandatory minimum laws happened in 1998 and 2003.

            According to statistics compiled by the Michigan State Police, the first six months of 2009 (the latest available data that I can locate), "violent crime" is up 1% from the previous year (murder and aggravated assault). But "property crimes" are down 14% and arson is down 12%.

            http://www.michigan.gov/documents/msp/2009_6monthPrelim_102009_298439_7.pdf

            In 2008, the preliminary statistics for the first 6 months showed violent crime down 12.5% from 2007, property crime was down 6.8%, arson was down 7.4%.

            http://www.michigan.gov/documents/msp/2009_6monthPrelim_102009_298439_7.pdf

            I honestly don't know what your real motive is for sending more people to prison, Josh. Perhaps you can share it with us. It's not about making us safer--because statistics just don't bear it out.

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    Carla Measure 11 requirements prohibit most corrections cuts. Thank Kevin Mannix when you see him.

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      Paulie:

      We also have a legal requirement to fully fund schools, and we're not doing that. It seems if we can ditch that law, we can certainly ditch the funding requirements for M11.

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        Dream on Carla.

        Perhaps most importantly Measure 11 costs about one tenth of one percent of the total state budget.

        Ironically you are right. There is no legal requirement we jail a child molester. We could go back to the years when I started practicing when they regularly got probation.

        Measure 11 - which allows judges, even over a prosecutor's objection, to sentence outside of M- 11 almost any second degree offense (like breaking both someone's legs with a baseball bat - Assault 2) is going to be the third rail for legislators who try to deny what Oregon Voters - many Blue Oregon Voters - have said over and over again. (Remember the 75% margin in 2000 for Measure 94?)

        Oregonians are much safer now than they were in 1990, for many reasons - including Measure 11. Elected officials like me supported Measure 57 along with Chip Shields and Floyd Prozanski against the Republican leadership because it seemed a reasonable balance. Now Chip and Floyd and the OBA are claiming M- 57 is poison and will "break the bank." That is such crap. It ended up costing about $8 million for the year it was allowed to exist, NOT the $80 million claimed in the voters pamphlet.

        I supported 66 & 67 and so did DA Mike Dugan. It cost him his career of 23 years. So before you start licking your chops at dismantling the one part of what Oregon government does that has gotten consistently better - reduced crime and increased public safety - think again. Particularly if you care about the Democratic majorities.

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        Carla, What does "fully fund" mean, anyway? How much do we need to "fully fund" schools?

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          Conventional wisdom might suggest that the QEM serves as a solid, bipartisan goal post. It won't happen for the next few years, but we can lay the work necessary to get there sooner, rather than later. 10 years have passed since QEM was established and we are currently at less than 75% of that, accounting in the newest cuts.

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            That seems about right, Dena. That's what the Oregon School Boards Assn is advocating:

            http://www.osba.org/Resources/Article/Improving_Education/Quality_education_cost.aspx

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    I agree with the governor's decision. A long drawn out contentious political batttle in the legislature is the last thing kids and teachers need right now. Although the Republicans in the minority would welcome a nasty fight before Oregonian's vote in the general.

    Boards across the state are in the final stages of adopting next year's budget. With the current news school boards are looking at the school calendar, talking with employee groups, checking ending fund balances and reserves.

    It is a terrible practice to put school superintendents and staff in limbo right up until September. Been there, done that and it isn't fun moving staff around at the last minute.

    Staff deserves a level of certainty in order to plan. If a teacher is cut now rather than in the fall they can review their personal and professional plans now and make decsions.

    Parents deserve a level of certainty. In some districts boundary changes will result due to funding reductions. Students and parents need adjustment time and a reduction of unnecessary anxiety.

    I trust my guys, State Rep. Peter Buckley and Senator Alan Bates to lead on this issue. Both have been in personal contact with the school districts in the area. Buckley has been working very hard and he knows where every penny is in the state budget.

    I also have great faith in State Rep. Sara Gelser, a former school board member who's worked in the trenches to guide state funding for K-12.

    Meeting with the Repubs is just an excuse for them to start the blame game. They would like nothing better than to ignore the crippling economy which is the heavy drag on Human Services costing the state more and more to help citizens in need. Instead they'll use their old playbook from the job killing taxes campaign (no evidence of that) due to M 66/67 and use buzz words like "wild spending". Further they will portray themselves as the salvation of public schools even though they have a record going all the way back to Measure 5 of not supporting public education. The Republicans in the legislature do not deserve a special session for political postering.

    In my view this is nothing more than a correction in the economic forecast for the state. In the Republican view they'll make it a failure to govern campaign issue.

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    Just to put a little context to this column on BLUE OREGON, the column was in fact this week's e-newsletter to my constituent list. (I try to send them out every two weeks.) I'd intended to report on this last week's legislative committee hearings but decided to put that off till next week and instead focus on the budget cuts. Kari saw it and asked me if he could use it on BLUE OREGON to get a discussion going on this topic.

    As you can tell from the column, one of my primary purposes was to explain my position and elicit reaction and feedback. I knew that ballots asking us legislators to vote on whether or not the Legislature should go into special session were going out (mine came yesterday by registered mail). I wanted to get a sense from people in my district of whether or not I was off base in deciding that for now at least the best thing would be to try to spread the cuts equally across the board.

    As an activist, an educator, and a person who likes to try to solve problems, my gut reaction upon hearing of the shortfall was the opposite--I wanted to go into special session and start fixing this thing. But the more I thought about it over the next day or so, the more I felt that this would be a mistake at this point. There are still too many unknowns out there, particularly with respect to what the federal government is going to do. If need be, we can always call ourselves into session at some point down the road, either to reconfigure the cuts or to add back critical services if the funding situation changes.

    For better or for worse, we spent much of the 2009 session hashing out questions of relative funding for K-12, post-secondary, health and human services, corrections, etc. It was hard, but for better or for worse we did it. To think that we could go into a brief special session, put everything on the table, reconfigure the allocation proportions, and quickly reach consensus (or even a majority)--in an election year--is wishful thinking. And the longer we wait, the greater the cuts will have to be.

    A number of my constituents have responded already; so far, nearly all of them have agreed that a special session would be a mistake right now. But almost to a person, they also expressed their frustration with our unstable funding system and with a system that unfortunately leads us to be investing more in corrections than we are in higher education. I share those feelings.

    We've got to be working on kicker reform, revenue reform, and the kinds of reforms that will allow us to shift our investments away from Corrections and towards education, prevention/treatment, affordable health care, and job creation.

    Those are not going to be worked out in a special session. But neither does it mean that we wait for the next regular session to take them on.

    If you have thoughts on this subject that you'd like to send me directly, send them to [email protected]

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    Rep. Dembrow,

    I don't know if I can put my family, with three kids in PPS and one child at PSU, through this again. We moved here in 2001 and this is the fourth budget crisis we've had to endure.

    There is a reason why many with families move to Vancouver. It's not that we want to commute, but we need stable school funding.

    This is more than just this biennium. This has been going on for a decade. At least give us the local option to tax ourselves more to pay for our schools, if the legislature cannot muster the political will to adequately fund education.

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    I would like to have 2 terms defined here so that I know we are all working from the same point.

    <h1>1: Critical services. The easiest way would be for you to list which services are NOT critical.</h1> <h1>2: Fair share</h1>

    Thanks!

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      I'll take a whack at #2 (even though I know it's a fool's errand with the tea party crowd.)

      Your proportion of taxes should be roughly equivalent to your proportion of income.

      The portion of Americans that earned 50% of the income should pay 50% of the taxes.

      In 2005, the top 300,000 Americans earned as much as the bottom 150 million Americans. It would be fair for those two population groups to pay the same amount in taxes.

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        Kari, I think I just got called a TEA Partier. I'm not. I do believe, however that Oregon state government is runs well beyond its means.

        We agree in proportional taxation. The easist way is a consumption (sales) tax. Exempt basic food, shelter, medicine and phone. Apply a corresponding income tax credit for families earning below 200% of the poverty level. Tax flat screen TV's, I-phones, boats, autos, fast food, etc. The wealthy make more of these type purchases and will continue to pay the highest amount.

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          Sorry, no. The easiest way to do taxation that's proportional to income is to tax income.

          Unfortunately, Oregon effectively has a flat tax rate on income. We should add brackets and scale middle-income thresholds down and upper-income thresholds up.

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            So if you're more successful you get taxed more, right? We have a "progressive" tax system already. How much more do you want to confiscate of higher income people? Higher income people already pay the vast majority of the income taxes. How much is enough?

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              how much of poor people's income do you want to confiscate to give tax breaks to the rich and corporatey?

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              Victoria, sorry, but Oregon does not have a progressive tax system. We have, almost entirely, a flat tax.

              Before Measure 66, the highest tax bracket (9%) kicked in at $7601 of annual income.

              Now, after Measure 66, anyone between $7601 and $125,000 (or $250k filing jointly) pays 9% while anyone over $125k pays 10.8%.

              So, Measure 66 has added a small element of progressivity -- but it's still absurd that someone making $17,472 a year (that's minimum wage, full-time) and someone making $100,000 pay the same tax rate.

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        For some data points on who pays what: http://reason.com/blog/2010/05/28/hillary-clinton-the-rich-are-d

        Seems to show that the higher income groups are paying a much larger share - no definition of "fair share" though.

        MP's question is still quite valid - "fair share" is a nice mantra, but no one can really define what it means. The rich surely have the ability to pay more; that is why they are the target - that is where the money is, and there are too few to mount much opposition.

        A more valid question is whether our state would have no problems down the road if the rates were higher.

        Like most things, there is never enough money to do all that everybody wants to do. Once the equilibrium of "enough money" is reached, there are new needs that will most certainly appear. Some arguably beneficial, many that will not be.

        Just as the passage 66/67 did not resolve our predicted revenue shortfall, neither will the more recent 68/69 resolve the issue of spending beyond our means.

        As to sales tax talk, or the effect of property tax limitations being the cause, one does not need to look very far to see that states with income, property, and sales taxes as well as states without property tax limitations are still suffering tax revenue shortfalls. The states that seem to not have a problem appear to be ones that attract healthy and growing businesses, and work harder to match their budgets to their tax revenue prospects. Oregon is doing a so-so job, but definitely needs to do better. Wishing the problem away thru inaction is not enough. An across the board cut takes care of the immediate dollar issue, but does absolutely nothing to resolve the matter long term. Downward spiral? Yes.

        The solution to the problem is to control spending, and not push obligations too far into the future.

        I am ready to pay more, though I'm not rich either (I do have many friends, though). Just as long as I still have enough left to pay for my homestead, keep food on the table, take care of health related matters, and take care of my family.

        I am nearly retired, and like Oregon very much. I'd like to stay here, but I also don't have much keeping me here if other states or regions make my dollars go further.

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        In Oregon in 2008, the Top 1% of taxpayers had 14.5% of AGI/20% of tax paid

        Top 5% 29% AGI/37% tax paid Top 20% 58% AGI/66% tax paid

        Source: Oregon Personal Income Tax Statistics 2010 Edition

        So by your definition, the "rich" are paying their "fair share" in Oregon.

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    I'd suggest that rather then duking it out over the entire budget, find something that allows local school districts more leeway in supplementing state money.

    In PPS the 19M shortfall works out to $413 per student. I would not expect that to be an insurmountable problem for the community, however I would not expect every community state-wide to deal with it in the same way. So how about a measure giving school districts some options?

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    Representative Dembrow, thanks for the update and your general leadership in the legislature.

    I support your current inclination not to have a special session. Let the 9% cuts play out. Spend the interim time developing proposals for the 2011 session.

    I do support more funding for education, but think that at whatever level education is funded, funds could be spent more strategically and effectively. Given changes in the geopolitical-economic world and in technology, there are four strategic changes Oregon needs to make. Work on these now, in the interim. Two are almost cost neutral: developing more Mandarin immersion programs and creating a statewide high school study abroad program.

    Two others can save substantial educational dollars (although my preference would be to reallocate them to other educational priorities).

    First, K-12 statewide needs to develop online programs aggressively and in ways that save money. I’ve estimated that Oregon could save roughly $240 million annually ($60 million in the first year) out of its $6 billion education budget by developing more online learning opportunities (see here). The Board of Education is current developing a statewide proposal. It’s too early to tell if it will save the state any educational costs. Pressure them to develop a proposal that can save money.

    Second, phase out direct state support for the three brand name higher ed institutions (U of O, OSU and PSU). Let them become independent (perhaps occupying land and buildings owned by the state). That way they might survive. Otherwise, like newspapers, universities, especially large ones, are facing serious challenges to their current business models because of changes in technology. They have become too costly. Formidable competition is developing. Online programs are both much less costly and, often, better. Shift the state funding of our brand name universities to scholarships to Oregon students that can be applied to any school in-state or any online program anywhere (so long as the student resides in Oregon). This would give Oregon the most cost efficient higher ed system in the US. Get a thoughtful proposal to do this developed for the 2011 session.

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      Yeah, I'm coming around to the idea that we should play it out. It's too late to cut days from this school year -- and, if the 2011 session works quickly, there will be time to avoid cuts to the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

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        It may or may not be best to let it play out. The "days cut" figures I'm seeing from around the state are in the 10-18 day range. This in a state that already has amongst the shortest school year in the nation. Districts are reluctant to cut those days in one massive block. It adds to the learning loss that happens over the summer-which disproportionally impacts low income students. Its more difficult and more expensive for parents to find child care. For students in some districts, like Reynolds, it would be the third time they have had their calendar shortened since 2004. With federal dollars seeming less likely and a looming 2011-2013 budget deficit, it seems difficult to make that leap of faith.

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    Expect to hear from Dudley do-right and his fellow GOP wingnuts about how we need more tax cuts for the wealthy to stimulate our economy, to be paid for by cuts in schools and other services to Oregon school kids.

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    "We've got to be working on kicker reform, revenue reform, and the kinds of reforms that will allow us to shift our investments away from Corrections and towards education, prevention/treatment, affordable health care, and job creation."

    Yes, yes and yes. What are your ideas for moving the conversation forward with the public? It will be tempting for legislators to say that this can wait, again, but clearly we are paying the price for these needed changes now. There is a better than even chance that Oregon will be sending out corporate kicker checks-most of whom go to outside of state businesses-just as we are struggling with the 2011-2013 budget. If we'd had established a permanent Rainy Day Fund in 2007, and still implemented Measures 66&67, Oregon would be weathering this recession with more stability. But now we are entrusting you, and our other leaders, to move Oregon forward.

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      "Kicker reform" = higher taxes.

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        In an economic recession, it's worse for the economy to cut government spending than it is to raise taxes.

        Even with 66 & 67, Oregon has an extremely tax-friendly environment for business. Further, even with the current budget problems, the corporate kicker is still expected to "kick" in next year. It's frankly ridiculous.

        Conservative economic "principles" helped get us into this mess. Applying them even more is NOT the way to get us out.

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        Not even remotely true

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          It's quite true, in fact. And for a prime example of how this works, look no further than the nation of Ireland.

          The Irish made deep spending cuts last year at this time. Their economy is reeling, in league with the same problems seen in Greece. Their deep spending cuts are only making the problem much worse.

          Economists in Britain who predicted the pending economic disaster several years ago are now saying that these spending cuts are only going to make it worse:

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/may/23/government-borrowing-coalition-government

          The firm Ernst and Young says that the most serious risk in Northern Ireland lies in the cutbacks to public spending proposed by the UK coalition government:

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/northern_ireland/10203777.stm

          And while they are predicted to rebound at some point, economists there are saying that "front-line services" must not be allowed to deteriorate.

          More here:

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/26/ireland-economic-collapse

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    Let's be clear here. The GOP is pressing for a special session because they want to posture and make the Dems appear responsible for the pain that is coming from cuts, while taking no responsibility at all for fixing the problem except to talk about evil govt. waste.

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      Any GOPer that suggests a special session should be required to tell us what they'd propose in terms of actual spending cuts (or, gasp!, revenue boosts.)

      Sure, the Democrats are in charge, and the legislative process is a process, but if you're going to argue that a special session can produce interesting and creative answers, let's at least hear a few.

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        I'm not advocating a special session. A leader in the governor's office could do the following and deal with the fallout:

        1. Immediately rescind all budget increases from the 2010 special session.
        2. Immediately slash manager/supervisor and unrepresented pay scales to the pre-raise levels from the fall of 2008.
        3. Freeze all state open positions.
        4. Ask the state public employee unions for a wage/benefit re-opener for the duration of the budget cycle. Agree to merit,step and COLA freezes and to paying 10% towards insurance benefits for the duration of the contract.
        5. Immediately shut down OLCC and transfer their dubious duties to OSP. Allow retail sales of alcohol.
        6. Cancel all travel, training and expenditures other than those necessary for the direct delivery of services.
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    Another consequence to the budget cuts is the risk of losing energy around improving Oregon's schools and forging systemic changes. This at a time when our graduation rates are unacceptably low and Oregon has the distinction of being at the bottom of the barrel in closing the achievement gap. So much energy gets poured into just keeping the schools open and teachers in classrooms, that it becomes all too easy to say that Oregon students must simply wait for a world class education. The optimist in me hopes it an opportunity to look at our system with "fresh eyes".

    That being said, I don't see a special session being useful at this time. Too many unknowns and the Oregon GOP would indeed use it as election year theatrics, while conveniently ignoring the decades of damage they have led against Oregon's public schools.

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    I'm constantly amazed we made it out of the 20th century.

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