Oregon Budget Hole, Real and Fake Causes

Jeff Alworth

Harry Esteve and Michelle Cole had a long piece in the Sunday Oregonian discussing the myriad budgetary problems confronting Oregon. I was going to post something on it, then I wasn't, and now, thanks to OSU Econ professor Patrick Emerson, I guess I will. Patrick takes particular interest in the article sidebar called "Eight Reasons Oregon Is in Deep Budget Trouble":

1. Recession: Unlike past economic troughs, this one was too deep, too vicious to muddle through with nips and tucks.

2. No sales tax: Our heavy dependence on income taxes to pay for schools and state programs leaves us vulnerable when jobs dry up.

3. Failure to apply spending brakes: Lawmakers went on a spree in 2007 that came back to bite them.

4. Dinky savings accounts: The state's first-ever rainy day fund, established in 2007, was all but depleted within two years.

5. Ballot measures approved by voters: Property tax limits, longer prison sentences, kicker rebates and mandatory parks spending leave little wiggle room when income stalls.

6. Public employee benefits: Most state employees get fully paid medical insurance. And the retirement system, despite rollbacks and changes for newer employees, still has old guaranteed returns and present retirement contributions that add up to soaring future costs.

7. Federal stimulus: It saved jobs for two years, but now it's going away and the economy did not recover fast enough to replace it.

8. The kicker: If the economy takes off faster than state officials anticipate, Oregon could be sending money back to individuals and corporations while cutting schools and services.

No disputing the first one, Emerson, says, but:

Number two is simply wrong. As I have illustrated in this blog through a rather extensive bit of research, a sales tax would not solve anything as consumption and income are very highly correlated. Sales taxes are almost as volatile as income taxes. It is the shift away from property taxes that contributed most the the current volatility of state revenues - which is alluded to in #5.

He adds that six is misleading because while benefits are generous, salaries are low. This is a good start, but I'd parse the list a little more.

Number three justifiable only if you ignore the fact that our terribly volatile system, which produces booms and busts, had before '07 produced two fairly serious busts. The "spending spree" was merely an effort to get back to some level of reasonable spending. Obviously, there's no objective level for "reasonable." Radical righties want to effectively defund government. But unless Esteve and Cole are joining them, how do you justify the comment given that the majority of spending, which goes to education and human services, was just plugging earlier holes?

Number four is true, but it's not the "dinky" that's the problem, it's the timing. Part of the "spree" maligned in #3 was the creation of the savings account--or rainy day fund. The scarce reserves in the rainy day fund weren't the failure, the failure was in not having created one decades ago. And of course, this element strongly relates to the eighth item, with which I strongly agree. Just before the current recession hit, the kicker forced the state to return a billion dollars to taxpayers.

As for state employees? This deserves greater discussion, but it's troubling that Esteve and Cole offer as fact that the benefits for state employees are themselves the problem. If you want a government, you have to have workers. If you have workers, you have to pay them. Oregon has chosen to pay workers poorly but give relatively--relatively--good benefits. There's no easy panacea here. And it's also troubling to hear reporters decry "old guaranteed returns"--as if the solution is to adopt a model where the state's promises to workers isn't worth the paper used to print the next poll numbers.

For what it's worth, gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber had an editorial in the same edition of the paper where he addresses some of these issues.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    I would put more emphasis on the federal government's failure to help sustain needed state level spending and to get all the US out of a recession. The federal government can, and should now, deficit finance. States cannot. Not only was the stimulus too small but we are ending up building roads and bridges while we lay off teachers. Those are not the priorities I would have for our future. I put much of the blame for the meager stimulus on Republicans, but even Democrats in Congress failed to fund state government and education aid sufficiently.

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      With respect to federal money, that horse has left the barn. I think the point of the article is that we will have to spend less in the next biennium. That means painful cuts somewhere, unless you think the state budget has 3.7B of fat.

      This is an important message. PPS couldn't handle even the recent budget cuts in part because the public had unrealistic expectations about funding. Agencies need to start now in engaging and enlisting public support for budget changes to come.

  • (Show?)

    While Oregon may be hurting more than other states--the reality is that this entire country--and every state except North Dakota is in mighty serious fiscal trouble. Add to that a 'jobless recovery' that's been projected since 2008...and things are not going to turn around anywhere soon.

    We keep waiting for the 'economy to pick up again'..but the reality is that the Industrial/consumer economy has now fully transitioned to a Knowledge/Service economy.

    We will not consume our way out of this mess! And there's the rub--with 70% of our economy tied to consumption--and all our economic measurements tied with it too...we keep trying to find solutions in the old system instead of the new.

    We need to come together, recognize what this next economy is all about, shift our measurement and monetization to support this next economy.

    We will need some solid leaders to bring this forward. Frankly, it offers us the best, most interesting and vibrant economy ever possible--but we have to stop trying to 'fit it' into the old systems' structures. We keep trying to jam a Knowledge/Service economy into the structure of the Industrial/consumer. Square peg, round hole... If we'd open our eyes and see the new systems ahead of us, frankly, Oregon could be a real leader.

    • (Show?)

      I've been hearing about this emerging "new knowledge/service economy" for about 25 years, but its outlines remain awfully vague and fuzzy. What it looks like so far is a few people with "knowledge" (or power or political connections) making almost all the money and the rest of the population barely scraping along by providing "services" to this narrow elite. It does not look like an economy capable of generating broad-based prosperity.

      I hope I'm wrong, and I would appreciate it if you or someone else could explain how and why I'm wrong.

      • (Show?)

        Bruce, Look further down ...I posted a comment to John Calhoun...and it has more of the details you're asking about.

        I think one of the reasons we have such a hard time with the K/S is it is so different from what we have now. But it is an inclusive economy that can provide work/quality of life for basically all...not just the 'elites'. Yes, it might have started out with this group as the early adopters...but it can't remain that limited.

  • (Show?)

    I really love having Patrick Emerson writing in the Oregon blogosphere. He's a gem, indeed.

    And you're not so shabby yourself there, Alworth. :)

    Really great post.

  • (Show?)

    Ann hits the nail on the head. The Oregonian rarely looks at what is going on in the rest of the region when it makes comments about what is happening in Oregon. It compares us to the state of Washington as if that is the only state we should look at. The country is suffering and frankly Oregon is not so bad off in comparison. That is if you don't cherry pick your comparisons. Nevada is facing a 50% deficit in their state budget.

    The other objection I have with this reporting is that every economic forecast is a fundamentally determined by the sentiment prevailing when the forecast is made. If the same ten year forecast had been made 3 years ago these deficits would not exist or at least would have been much more manageable. My guess is that in three years the numbers will show higher revenue. I don't think we should assume that we will be saved by such a reversal, but we should also remember that there is nothing sacred about this forecast.

    Also the basic assumption is that we cannot consider additional taxes. While this may be true politically, it is worth noting that our tax load is below average, in spite of what Republicans say, and therefore we have trouble paying for equivalent services. There is some truth to the point that the journalists make that our per capita income is smaller than Washington and part of that is a result of our poorly funded universities. As long as we refuse to fund our universities and schools properly we will find it difficult to raise per capita income in the state. College graduates tend to earn more than high school graduates and as the percent of college grads decreases in the state our per capita income will decrease.

    Lastly, although the Oregonian doesn't say it, the implications of the headlines is that we will have to cut budgets every year for the next 10 years when the issue is a one time re-structuring of our priorities. I know that the authors did not mean to imply otherwise, but I don't think that they did a good job communicating that to the casual reader.

    • (Show?)

      Since 1975, we have slowly but surely been shifting out of the Industrial/consumer economy to a Knowledge/Service economy. From 1975-2008, we were in Knowledge/Service 1.0 as production was outsourced throughout the globe, and we put our attention into increasing technology and knowledge expansion here at home. Knowledge/Service 1.0 saw the first wave of transition sending blue-collar jobs overseas and now the white-collar jobs attached to these production industries are going too. Less obvious however was the emergence of the new industries of the Knowledge/Service economy—medicine, education, finance, technology, arts, entertainment, and other quality of life industries that support optimal human life. 70% of our economy remained tied to the Industrial/Consumer economy while less than 30% was part of Knowledge/Service 1.0.

      As we sit in the Great Recession of 2008, a jobless recovery is now predicted and this makes sense because many of the industries that provided jobs are no longer thriving. This time, a myriad of forces have come together to push us onward. While yet to be determined, it is possible that a complete flip will occur and within the next 10 years, 70% of work will be found in Knowledge/Service industries while just 30% remain in the Industrial/consumer sector.

      Yes, we say there is a jobless recovery—but that’s because we’re trying to put people back to work in the Industrial/consumer economy jobs. Obviously, that’s not working! As we shift into the Knowledge/Service 2.0, there’s plenty of work that needs to be done—it’s just that it isn’t in the industries that we are familiar with. We need to begin to wrap our heads around this reality. Instead, let’s put our focus on what this Knowledge/Service 2.0 economy needs in terms of work. Once we do this, we can go from a jobless recovery to new employment creation based on what this next economy needs in terms of work!

      Economies change…work changes too. Just as we shifted from the work we were familiar with doing in the Agricultural economy in order to learn how to do the work needed for the Industrial economy, so too will we need to learn and pay for the new work needed for the Knowledge/Service 2.0 economy.

      That is the opportunity available to us in the crisis of the 2008 Great Recession. Investment in this new infrastructure will force us to expand beyond the GDP measurement system because it is insufficient to meet the needs of the Knowledge/Service 2.0 economy. As well, new employment sectors that will foster the needs of this economy based on quality of life will need to be added. This will include local community tied to human capacity development and environmental restoration/stewardship to support high quality of life. We are not yet accustomed to paying for this work because of the deficiencies of GDP measurement but we certainly have the ability to make this possible.

      • (Show?)

        This is rocking good analysis, Ann!

      • (Show?)

        Respectfully ann, as a lifelong student and a counselor you know little of actually woring in either the old industrial economy or your much lauded Service/Knowledge economy. the model does not pencil out.

        In southern and central Oregon the envoronmentalists took away the logging and timber jobs and told us that tourism and service would replace the timber dollars. well, at about $12/hr for call centers and tourism, those economies fall flat. They also depend on a consumption ideology based on others making enough mney to have disposable income to pay for vacations and Harry & David fruit baskets. In case you haven't noticed, that has also tanked.

        • (Show?)

          Well Kurt, I've owned my own business (counseling, training and book publishing) since 1993, so I think your 'judgements' of my qualifications to write on these subjects is quite disrespectful and uncalled for.

          • (Show?)

            Ann, no disrespect intended or done. Just pointing out the apparent lack of real world tested experience. Again I note you have no real answer for the failure of service, tourism and knowledge base activities to replace the lost timber and industrial output.

        • (Show?)

          Yet there is growth in green energy jobs in those same areas of the state, and with large, targeted investments, could be a larger economic driver than lumber extraction was.

      • (Show?)

        I generally agree with Ann. We need to rethink our economy and how we educate our young. Our major economic opportunities for both our goods and services are in the fast growing markets abroad. We need to retool our education system with more foreign language and study abroad programs to compete better in those market. Most business are being reshaped by digitization. We need to make sure our digital infrastructure is globally competitive - that means investments in broadband access rather than, for example, the Columbia River Project bridge boondoogle.

  • (Show?)

    Regarding the Rainy Day Fund - I don't know that the Oregonian was avoiding the issue of the timing of the creation of the fund, because even if it was created sooner, it still may have been "dinky". What it would have taken to make a real difference this biennium is more than what is statutorily allowed in RDF.

    Regardless, we need to get a REAL Rainy Day Fund created ASAP that will have sufficient funds and is only used when really needed.

  • (Show?)

    Great post, Jeff

    I was particularly offended by the "spending spree" part of the article.

    If we accept every new (and lower) budget as "normal" and the base from which we judge all future changes, we are building a 3rd world" mentality into the core of our public policy!

    Not OK!

  • (Show?)

    Oregon state government spends more than $15,000 per person. Household income in Oregon is about $50K.

    That means we are pretty darn close to the point that state spending per household exceeds the average household income.

    Is someone going to explain how this is not out of balance?

  • (Show?)

    To all who posted nice words--thanks! Re-reading this today, I find it riddled with minor linguistic errors, and I thank you all for ignoring these and focusing on my larger point.

    Rob, to your point, let's acknowledge first that we disagree philosophically. I think higher levels of spending are appropriate for necessary higher services, you don't. That's a reasonable disagreement. However, your statistics mislead, and there I have to call BS.

    There are a lot of ways to calculate spending levels, but you can't just divide the number of Oregonians by the dollars in the budget. For one thing, spending streams don't flow equally. We have lottery funds that don't come out of everyone's pockets, for example. And federal dollars. I'm told we still even manage to raise a penny or two from business taxes. People who own property pay more than people who don't. More importantly, we have people who make about the median income and we have people like Phil Knight, who make ... more.

    I haven't seen the most recent statistics, but Oregonians spend roughly 11% of their income on all state taxes and fees. That works out to about $5,500 on the median earner. Let's at least talk about the real numbers before we get into the philosophical differences, okay?

    • (Show?)

      Jeff - Why is per-capita state spending not a relevant statistic? Regardless of the source of those funds, whether it be federal, lottery, fees, income taxes or whatever, the fact is the state of Oregon budget comes to more than $15k per person.

      There are actually NOT a "lot of ways to calculate spending." State spending is a knowable number.

      I certainly agree that we disagree philosophically about the appropriate level of government intervention (you call it "services") in our lives.

      But even leaving this aside - We spend $15K per person. Are we getting good value for that money?

      • (Show?)

        As far as I can tell your $15,000 per capita is the all-funds bi-annual budget so even using your calculation in relationship to income the number would be $7,500 per capita. Of course the annual general funds budget representing the state income taxes people pay would be about $1,500 per capita or about 10% of what you started with.

        • (Show?)

          Ha! Nice catch, John.

          You can't compare annual income numbers to biannual budget numbers, Rob.

          That basic goof calls into question your more advanced assertions.

    • (Show?)

      I think I've made myself clear.

      On your bizarre comment here:

      I certainly agree that we disagree philosophically about the appropriate level of government intervention (you call it "services") in our lives.

      Do you mind when government "intervenes" to create safe roads, police to watch over them, and a judiciary to enforce the laws--all so the teams of Freightliners driving down the Gorge can get product to market?

      (Never mind the schools that teach the kids who grow up to work as truckers, or the universities who educate the accountants who work for the company, or...)

      This is pure ideological rhetoric--and rhetoric you surely can't believe. Are we underfunding government, no matter how we rhetorically couch the numbers? Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Enormously.

      • (Show?)

        Well there we have it. You believe we are underfunding government, while I believe there is a lot that government does we would be better off if it didn't.

        Light rail, for instance. Tri-Met advances trippingly down this ruinous path to spend $1.5 billion we don't have, right into the teeth of the biggest fiscal crises the state has ever seen.

        That's just one example. BETC is another. And the new subsidy for solar systems that makes PGE pay homeowners 8 times market for the energy they use. And the remarkably stupid "25 by 25" renewable energy program that Kulongoski championed.

        I could go on and on and on.

        You want more of it, I want less of it. That is what differing ideologies are all about.

        • (Show?)

          Of course, Tri-Met is not a state agency, so this is not a relevant example.

          As for the BETC, it's not a government agency, either--it's a tax cut. While I'm generally in favor of rolling back tax cuts during crises like this--Chuck Sheketoff argued that on BlueO recently--this is a tiny drop in the bucket.

          You should go on and on. Based on your first two examples, I think you're doing yeoman's work in defeating your own argument. I'd be interested in hearing which state services you'd cut--actual government programs you think are too expensive.

          • (Show?)

            Jeff: Milwaukie Light Rail will be partially funded by 250 million in lottery bonds - a direct hit to the state budget.

            Who said BETC was a government agency? What kind of an argument is that? It is a huge waste of money. So your argument is that a wasteful tax credit isn't a good example of government profligacy because it isn't a "state agency?"

            Brilliant!

            Heck, state agencies even apply for and receive BETC tax credits! Then to monetize them, they have to sell them to Wal Mart! So the state cant even pass money from one agency to another without bleeding off 25%.

            • (Show?)

              Rob, Jeff's question remains:

              What MAJOR program would you cut? I remind you that nearly all state spending goes for education (K-12 and college), criminal justice, and health care and human services.

              • (Show?)

                I would reduce state employee wages by 10-25% (depending on the position) and I would initiate an immediate hiring freeze, which reduces state headcount by about 7% a year.

                I would try to keep education funding as high as close to current levels as possible, but would encourage districts to cut wages as well.

                Then I would go through every state agency budget and get rid of every diversity coordinator, sustainability coordinator, and similar positions that are nothing but dead weight. After 24 years of single party rule, the flotsam and jetsam that has accumulated in the state agencies is embarrassing.

                After making our current structure as efficient as possible, I would then start looking at the programs themselves. Low hanging fruit is of course BETC, auto pool, DEQ emissions testing to name a few small items.

                I would establish a HSA style medical insurance program.

                If the unions don't like having to face the same reality every other Oregonian faces, they can strike. Think of the savings!

                • (Show?)

                  Thank you, Rob, for being somewhat specific.

                  Assuming that you believe that some programs are more worthwhile than others, are you proposing to shift state workers from one department to another? (Which you'd have to do to maintain program-specific staffing levels in the midst of an overall hiring freeze.) And if so, how would you address the drop in quality staffing for those high-priority programs? More training dollars?

                  Also, are you proposing hiring freeze in criminal justice staffing - prosecutors, police, and prison staff? If so, how do you propose dealing with increased caseloads for prosecutors - and with reduced staffing in prisons? (These problems may, in part, solve each others -- fewer prosecutors means fewer prosecutions, which may mean fewer inmates. Of course, if Kevin Mannix is to be believed, that would increase crime. Your reaction?)

                  Finally, as you're reducing staffing for federally-mandated but state-administered entitlement programs, how do you propose dealing with the increasing caseloads? (Unemployment, Medicaid, TANF, etc. These programs are required by the federal government.)

                  In general, I guess I'm curious what impact you see these staffing reductions having on specific program areas?

                  (And we haven't even gotten into the effect that wage reductions might have on retention of senior, expert, and critical personnel.)

                • (Show?)

                  So you want state employees to have even less money in their pockets to buy groceries, clothing, mortgages, cars...etc?

                  I'm curious as to how the strategy of cutting state employee wages fits in to reinvigorating Oregon's economy....

                • (Show?)

                  Rob,

                  (After starting this discussion, I had to leave and go to a rural area with no internet or phone access--sorry for the delay.)

                  I hope the GOP runs on your platform. That would be an honest and interesting debate.

                  As matters of policy, I'd point out a few things. First, when you say you'd hold spending to current levels, would that be a per capita level, COLA-adusted, or absolute level? Because, Oregon continues to grow and experience modest inflation. If the state is funding 2% more students per year with 2% inflation rates, a buck will get stretched thinner and thinner for each student every year that rolls by. Voters would probably be interested to know how you'd handle that.

                  I worked in state government for 14 years and I never met--or heard of--a single "diversity coordinator" or "sustainability coordinator" in those years. Would you care to point us to some information about how many there are and how much this would save?

                  Some things you can't so easily cut--as I'm sure you know. You cite DEQ as a bane to be slashed, but there are all kinds of laws and regulations the legislature can't influence there. As you start poking around state jobs, I think you'd find similar problems. A portion--something greater than all the diversity and sustainability coordinators put together--work for the state on federal money. You may not be able to cut those. Would you be willing to treat state-funded workers differently? Would you be willing to reject federal money and get by on even less revenue to run state services?

                  This is not insignificant. During my 14 years, most of my income came from the feds. You could have flushed my job, but to what point?

                  Union workers have already taken pay cuts and furloughs resulting in less access by citizens to state services. One cost in cutting back further is that you fail to serve taxpayers. Striking workers may thrill you, but I wouldn't bet on the majority of Oregonians joining your joy. Who knows, they might even take the workers' side. I'd be willing to test the theory.

          • (Show?)

            Jeff, I would cut OLCC, OR-OSHA and DEQ. I like the two latter, but they are federal mandates and we could give that back to the feds, especially since they now want to argue states can't be primary on national issues.

            OK, that was snarky, but both federal OSHA and federal EPA already have offices in Oregon. AND we have far fewer manufacturung and industrial concerns now.

          • (Show?)

            Rob, you were the one complaining that Oregonians spend too much on state taxes. I'm just pointing out that the two things you cite have no bearing on this.

            Kurt, I'm with you on the OLCC, but that's not a money-saver.

  • (Show?)

    Emerson is incorrect. From the Portlan State University study, "Analysis of Oregon Public Employee Compensation" completed in early 2008 I think...

    1. The average cost of healthcare for public employees in Oregon is one of the highest in the nation and Oregon is one of the few states that pays the entire premium of public employee health benefits.
    2. Oregon's Public Employee Retirement systems is one of the most costly state retirement systems on the U.S.
    3. The average private employee in Oregon pays $3,151 towards family coverage if offered. They pay, on average 6%-10% into a defined contribution retirement plan while Oregon Public employees pay 0.
    4. For pay private sector Office Managers, Assistants and Specialist were found to be slightly higher paid in the private sector (pre the 18%-40% pay increases given out), but accountants were paid more in the public sector. For construction, public sector employees were found to have a compensation package much greater than their private sector counterparts.
    5. Private sector employees usually work until age 65 or until normal retirement age whereas public employees may retire as early as age 55 with 30 years or age 62 with 15 years of service enjoying bridge medical plans until Medicare kicks in.
    • (Show?)

      Kurt, do you have a link for that document? It looks like one the university used during collective bargaining--which wasn't by any means an academic study but rather a piece of propaganda.

  • (Show?)

    Jeff, here is a link. I printed mine out about 5 months ago. It was commissioned by the Oregon Business Council so I have no idea wht the use was.

    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:sAqkLr5QYiMJ:www.oregonbusinessplan.org/pdf/total%2520compensation%2520review.pdf+bryce+foix&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiqBEXScxwAaPfgVSZ2G5n1lWH97AqCYp_Zt-jWjj8KcWhCYdIyuHBGrtsuc4Z8CIJkIrg_zz-iVM30qOWn15awCc8glJfshSuxG9Pma9prnH4aZbxdZqPnCLICPsN_gasxohlN&sig=AHIEtbT7uBAyt69zz6416jKCd2A4Nz84eQ

    Clearly I am not very adept at linking.

    • (Show?)

      If it was commissioned by the OBC, it probably isn't a scholarly paper--it might not be the iron clad refutation you believe.

      • (Show?)

        That may well be Jeff, but then its a cited source conducted by PSU MBA candidates that I have not found refuted in my studies. I would welcome published reports either contradicting or supporting.

        Bottom line, like the retiree/medical costs of Big Steel and big Auto in the late 80's, Oregon's public outlays in these areas are not sustainable. They are budget busters.

        read, "The Wolf Finally Came" by Pittsburgh Press.

  • (Show?)

    Yep, that is on the title page. are MBA candidates from PSu any less credible in a compensation study than a Forestry Masters candidate from OSU writing about the Biscuit Fire and salvage logging? Scholars writing within their fields?

  • (Show?)

    FWIW, I think the correct comparison is between Oregon public employees compensation and those of other states, not between pubic and private - that is apples and oranges as far as I am concerned.

    Also if you are going to do comparisons, you cannot just go a look at average salaries within fields, you haver to control for education, experience, tenure, etc.

    Anyway the bigger point is that you haver to look at compensation as a whole - not just one piece or the other.

    • (Show?)

      assuming you are correct 9you're not). Which state that isn't under water would you like to compare Oregon salries, benefits and retirment to? the report also documents that Oregon public employees trail only California (with a much higher cost of living) for overall annual pay, health benefits and retirement.

      The state employee compensation model is broken. Comparing one broken system to another is like asking which ship sunk fastest; the Titanic or the Lusitania.

  • (Show?)

    Mr. Emerson has a legitimate gripe about university professors. They are one of the few types of public positions that are way undercompesated in Oregon. And if someone wants to argue that public employees are overcompesated, university professors is a position I'd avoid.

    I think Mr. Chapman is generally correct about comparing public compensation to private compensation. Though I'd compare both private and comparable public positions for comparison when there are comparable positions, as there are in acadamia.

    I've also never seen anyone refute the PSU study. Regardless of who authored or commissioned it, if its factual, its factual. It is. Public benefits are unsustainable not because taxes COULDN'T be raised to pay for them, but because they WON'T be paid to maintain them. So we're left with the options of keeping public employee compensation as is, and reducing services to the needy, the poor, the infirm and our children, or re-setting overall public employee compensation to equitable levels of wage and benefit.

    And I'm not even convinced a re-set would save money. If you take public employee unions at face value, we could see an increase in state cost if everyone is so underpaid.

    I think most taxpayers just want fair compensation for public employees. If we could put this issue to rest with a re-set, we could move on to fixing Oregon structural problems long term.

    • (Show?)

      "I think most taxpayers just want fair compensation for public employees."

      Well, that's a bit of a tautology. The fight is over what's "fair".

      But more to the point, a salary isn't a prize for moral goodness. It's not really about "fairness".

      Taxpayers should fund those positions that provide the services that they believe are critical - and at a level that most efficiently gets the job done; balancing experience, education, turnover, and other critical factors.

      There are many of us that believe that government services are critical and we should have experienced professionals providing those services.

      There are others, like Rob Kremer, who dismiss the value of government services - and would rather underfund those services, and (presumably) reduce the quality and professionalism of those staff who remain.

  • (Show?)

    To clarify for you, Fair compensation is not an arbitrary 10-15% cut in compensation. Fair compensation is based partially on the things you cite. And in addition what the private and comparable public employees from other states make. I think most taxpayers would support that. And, they'd be much more accepting of other changes that would need to be made if we're to protect vital necessary services.

    I'm confused though where you say the fight is over what is fair, then say its not really about fairness.

    I was pleased to read that both our current governor and our future governor recognize that a change in public employee benefits is required if we're to resolve Oregon budget problems. Now if the democratic candidates can untether themselves from certain elements that want to kill this review and reset, D's may even retain their majority in the house.

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