Budgetary blather from Bruce Starr

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Monday's Oregonian included an op-ed by Senator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro). No surprise, Starr is cranky - as we all are - about the coming 9% budget cuts to Oregon state government, and its funding to local schools.

With a headline that read "A better solution to balance the budget", I expected... y'know... a better solution to balance the budget.

Unfortunately, Senator Starr offered no such thing.

Rather, he offered up some process-oriented blather and a bunch of vague generalities. Frankly, the Oregonian should be embarrassed they printed such non-specific nonsense.

For example, Starr demanded a special session that would:

"...give us a chance to make needed reductions to state spending with precision, carefully prioritizing and protecting the services that matter most to Oregonians."

Seriously? Yeah, Bruce, we're all in favor of precision, prioritizing, and protecting services that matter most. Got it. Check. How about some actual details?

The closest that Starr gets to actually proposing "a better solution" is this empty-headed rhetoric:

"This is our chance to cut the bureaucracy, waste and less-important services of state government rather than classroom teachers and school days."

Yes. Yes, yes, yes! I'm all in favor of cutting bureaucracy, waste, and less-important services. Bruce, would you care to explain how you're going to cut bureaucracy and waste - and which services are less-important?

As a progressive, I abhor wasteful spending in government. After all, if there's a program that's supposed to, say, feed hungry children - and that money is instead lining the pockets of a subcontractor, well, that's not achieving the progressive goal of feeding hungry children.

Is there waste in government? Of course. Should we root it out? You bet. But that's not going to happen in a special session budget committee at the legislature. Rooting out waste happens in the executive branch, by creative and aggressive managers - and by outside auditors.

Legislators make budgets. They increase or decrease the spending for particular programs, departments, and agencies. Which gets us to Starr's call for cutting "less-important" services.

Once again, courtesy of the Bus Project last year, here's the rough breakdown on where the legislature spends general fund and lottery dollars - most of it discretionary:

So, Bruce, since you say you've got "a better solution to balance the budget", I'll ask: Which 9% are you going to cut? Education? Prisons? Human services and health care? It's not like there's a Department of Free Candy and Circus Clowns. Bruce, which $572 million will you cut? Name the program. (Heck, I'll go easy on you: Let's just start with one-tenth of the problem. What $57.2 million would you cut - if you were king for a day?)

Above, I took a shot at the Oregonian for printing this nonsense. But the Oregonian's hardly alone in this. Oregon is facing serious budget problems. This is a time for serious leadership and serious answers. So, my dear friends in the media, don't fall for the nonsense. Don't let lightweights like Bruce Starr get away with blather. If someone tells you they have a magic answer to our problems, make them detail it. Make them get specific. Most Oregonians have no idea where the money goes; and unless you make the politicians get specific, they never will.

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    The right wing trying to pretend they really wouldn't cut services that Oregonians rely on.

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      Bill ryan enough of this bunk about the right wing.Btw what have any of the left wing nuts done about unemployment and putting the private sector back to work?before you start mouth off about republicans look at what the worthless do nothing progressives have done about jobs,getting unemployment down and the private sector back working?The liberals have done absolutely nothing and dont care to either.I have a real good budget solution cut the size of the bloated state govt to the bare bone.Btw Blue Oregon crowd when has the state govt in Oregon ever been cut?Of course none of you have the guts to call for that do you?with you progressives its always tax,fee and regulate more.Oregon has a spending problem not a lack of revenue problem.Consultants Kari could be and need to be cut.how about the progressives getting the guts to tell Opeu,Seiu and Oea public employee unions to go to you know where and tell them no for once?

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        Mathew, if your right-wing bromides actually worked then Arizona would be a paradise of balanced budgets and happy businesses. Instead, after a couple of decades of slash and burn, they're multi-billion dollars in the red and have run out of things to cut. You want that for Oregon? No thanks.

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        Given that trickle-down economic theory has proven to fail every time it is implemented, and that we "left-wing nuts" actually have a proven record of balanced budgets and economic growth, I will give your tired empty rhetoric all the due consideration it deserves.

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        OK, Matthew, what would you cut? And, please, be specific.

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          the governor will continue to take the easy out when it comes to the budget. He did the same 7 years ago. What COULD he cut and be a leader?

          1. Start by temporarily suspending the 11%-24% raises he gave to state supervisors and managers effective 2008.
          2. Cut ANYTHING that was added in the past special legislative session, Feb 2010.
          3. Immediately impose a 10% cost sharing for supervisors/managers and non-represented workers for their health/dental/vision coverage.
          4. Eliminate OLCC; allow for retail sale of hard alcohol and put their required duties with OSP for code enforcement.
          5. AFTER doing all of this go to AFSCME and SEIU and seek temporary holds on the 4.75% step increase scheduled for October 1, COLA and a 10% cost sharing on health/dental/vision insurance.
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            And what would that pencil out too?

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              Good question. I derived my data from the approved budget post February 2010 special session. there are 51,000 FTE positions in the state government and I assumed about 8,000 are supervisors/managers. all estimates are to the low side and assume a 1.35% fully burdened employment cost.

              1. State budget increased by $61MM after the session in general fund spending. That was from $30MM for DHS to $.1MM for demonstration projects for diabetes and hypertension. I did not include the $32MM transfer to PEBB to cover health benefits over runs.
              2. Rescinding the late 2007 11%-24% pay raise assumes a 45k median salary and would save $70MM.
              3. Hitting up the non-reps for a 10% cost share on health benefits assumes about 20,000 non-reps and a savings of $24MM.
              4. OLCC and state claim they fund themselves, but with 230 employees warehouses and land those are all costs that the private sector could absorb and the taxes would go to state general fund. total budget $134MM assume a savings first year of about 65% or $80MM.
              5. Then go to the roughly 25,000 represented employees and seek a freeze on the 4.75% step increase assuming a wage of $12.50/hr is a savings of $54MM. If they also pay the 10% health insurance copay we have an additional savings of $30MM.

              It doesn't eliminate the $577MM hole, but makes it rather manageable.

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        Ahhh yes. Another inciteful bit of analysis by Matthew.

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        A response worthy of Mr. Starr. Well done, Matthew. Next time include some details about how YOU would go about fixing the budget instead of talking points. You just made Kari's point nicely.

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    "before you start mouth off about republicans look at what the worthless do nothing progressives have done about jobs,getting unemployment down and the private sector back working?"

    You do see how illogical that is? The free market is supposed to be capable of anything if government merely stepped aside. So why would government (or progressives?) have to do anything? Or if they are doing nothing, why is there unemployment? Oh, right, you have the whole line of baloney about how if only we really had deregulation, then it would reallllllllly work as it is supposed to. Bolox. Why aren't you looking at your free market folks for the jobs they are sending over seas?

    Oh my, I forgot---I am sure they would if only those SEIU thugs weren't on their asses, or something.

    And Matthew, I hate to bring this up, but you and your grammar are Exhibit A of why we need to concentrate on our public schools. Enough said.

    But more to the point: I think one specific area where cuts could be made are in Corrections: (1) Decriminalize a lot of status and victimless crimes, make them violations and (2) rescind Measure 11.

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      Theresa it has nothing to do with the free market.It has everything to do with Oregons high tax,fee and regulate market.Their is unemployment because the liberals are sitting on their tails hiding from public view and dont care about anyone in the private sector,especially the unemployed.The failed liberal policies Theresa have gotten us double digit unemployment and an arrogant hostile anti business climate and that has nothing to do with the free market.

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    I will never forget lobbying Bruce Star on behalf of public university students. When the camera and papers were away, he made it clear to us that he flat out did not care what we had to say about tuition going up so much. Didn't care! Not one bit! He asked us questions like "how many students voted for you?" while giving us really off-putting body language and the like. Let's put it this way, I would not buy a used car from him.

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    I expect when pushed, he'd give one specific: cut waste.

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    There is a point here that goes beyond the tit for tat over the special session. Unless you think the economy is about to go gangbusters then the main project of the next legislature is going to be cuts, cuts, cuts. Is there a progressive approach to determining who or what faces the axe?

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      I don't pretend to represent all progressives, but getting pot heads out of our jails to make room for the meth heads (thank you WWII scientists for that gift to the world, not) by legalizing the marijuana plant could save and make some money at the same time. Right now, it goes in the pockets of the black-marketeers. This is just one controversial suggestion but as far as it being a progressive idea, I'm sure many Libertarians would agree also. Free Spicoli! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf5rIuJPTt0

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