Kulongoski: Cigarette Taxes & School Fund Strategy

The Oregonian has posted a blog entry previewing the Governor's State of the State address on Friday - based on an interview earlier today.

In an interview with The Oregonian’s editorial board Wednesday, Kulongoski said he said he would seek an increase in cigarette taxes to pay for his “Healthy Kids” proposal...

Instead of trying to raise taxes to add money to schools, Kulongoski will offer a plan that ensures a 10 percent increase every two years for all education budgets, from preschool to higher education. Any surplus money would go into two accounts — one to soften the financial blow from future recessions and a second, smaller “strategic” fund to put extra money where it’s most needed. ...

“It’s the first plan where you can actually look out beyond one biennium and say there’s a strategy to get us someplace,” Kulongoski said.

Update: The full Oregonian story is here.


  • John (unverified)

    If I was writing a State of the State address, I would mention that after 25 years of reductions in revenue in real terms for Oregon State and local government (including measure 5 and 50, the kicker, and an endless string of tax expenditures that in many cases serve no valuable purpose), large businesses as a group pay a very small fraction of total tax revenues. If they have any interest at all in a well educated workforce, in the investments in infrastructure needed for business growth, and in some serious work on containing the costs of health care that are hurting their bottom line, it is time that they pay their fair share.

    Instead we have the Minnis/Kulongoski plan for permanent defunding of public education dusted off and sold as a "strategy". No mention of the root causes of increasing education costs, health care and benefits mainly, and of how we are going to solve those problems. Not even the creation of a commission to study the issue and report back sometime in the next decade.

    Did Governor Kulongoski always lack a political spine, or is this a recent development?

  • gus (unverified)

    Hey isn't this the same agenda Westlund has been promoting. Well Ted welcome aboard, but its a real shame you were no where to be found when this was proposed legislation during the last session.

  • John Bromley (unverified)

    Ted's plan to save education and provide health care to kids is good, but it is 4 years too late to impress me. What did he do in the first term? Why should anyone think he will do anything but talk during the second term he wants?

  • me (unverified)

    In 2003 when Ted took office, wasn't Oregon in the worst economic downturn in years? I remember us having the highest unemployment rates in the country. It was a shame. I think the only reason we can even consider now trying to fix our schools and look and expanding health care coverage is because this Governor has shown true leadership and put this state back on solid financial footing.
    The 5th fastest growing economy in the nation is pretty hot! Too little too late? It takes a little time to dig the state out of a horrendous financial state. We are now on the right path and I think that Ted had a lot to do with that. He has turned around the economy in only 36 months. Now I think we should give him the chance to turn around our education system and make sure that every child has health care insurance.

  • me2 (unverified)

    Ted Kulongoski talking about actually funding education and healthcare? it's odd that he's decided these issues need to be addressed now, 3 months before the primary. In recent memory anyways, mention of both have been about as rare as Neil Goldschmidt visits to the Governors mansion.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Hmm... another example of something Kulo wasn't around during session for, but is now making part of his campaign flag-waving.

    Like when he was conspicuously absent in getting SB1000 passed, but then last week made a big show of appointing a task force on the subject.

    Or when he was absent on the Clean Cars bill (SB344) but then touted his directive to the DEQ to do the same.

    Similar to "directing" the Health Policy Research office to research health policy after doing nothing on health care during the last two sessions. (It's already in the mission statement, for goodness sake.)

    And now a brilliant idea that looks strikingly similar to the Family Health and Wellness Act.

    Ted: Odd-numbered years, we're in session. Even-numbered years, out of session.

  • Jeff Bull (unverified)

    I'm fine with Teddy K's priorities - even as I admit the timing is a bit suspect. At the same time, I do credit Kulongoski with one thing: I think he understood early in his term that he wasn't going to make much headway on upping state revenues given a legislature run to varying degrees by the GOP - and one ideologically committed to fighting tax hikes at that. Given that backdrop, I think he has done a fair job of constantly reminding voters that this is the money with which we've got to work. That may be a frustrating refrain in the near-term, but it's also a good long-term approach to raising the point about a need for new taxes, or repealing/tinkering with Measure 5, or coming up with a new, more stable approach to taxation. Personally, I see value in that.

    At the same time, I'm dubious on two parts of his schools proposal: first, I'm having trouble believing the "we'll grow larger budgets" line; I don't buy this when George W. Bush talks about it either. The reserve funds sound nice on paper, but how often will we hit that with an automatic 10% hike per biennum? Second, if I'm not mistaken pushing school funding to 61% of the general fund constitutes a significant raise in numbers doesn't it? (Alternately, I could be getting my numbers mixed up becuase previous budgets didn't include funding for public universities.) In the end, this is a proposal to simply throw more money at schools. The rhetoric sounds like more of the same to me and I wonder how far it will go - especially if the GOP retains control of half the legislature.

    I elaborate a bit on this here.

  • Me3 (unverified)

    Interesting postings.

    I think there is some sound strategy here in the Kulongoski camp. A couple of points:

    If I were an incoming Governor with the WORST economy and unemployment in the country it would be pretty clear to me what is job 1. As a recent transplant from California, with lame leadership to go around, I have followed your/my Governor with interest on his jaunts to visit with manufacturers and others in far flung locations to get jobs here. Yes, some of the jobs are not the high priced ones we would want but there is a smart strategy to get jobs placed just not in the Portland metro area. I remember an article last year about the Governor flying down to California to lure some health food store that eventually set up shop in Southern Oregon.

    Second, as a professional in the allied health field, I remember the debate 2 years ago to try and get all the school districts in Oregon to purchase their prescription druges (one of the largest cost drivers in the system) for a joint pool. What I thought was ridiculous was that one of the school associations was against it as was the largest business lobby's here (AOI). Why? they all got kick backs, including the school association. So now, we have nearly 200 individuals "deals" instead of one. This was the Governor's initiative his first legislative session.

    I am also reminded of an issue that is causing the school districts and local governments a lot of heartburn and that is the cost of the PERS system. I applaud the Governor for trying to save the system and bring it back on line to something that is more representative of other pension systems around the country. I read Jim Hill's comments today about the Governor "lying" during the campagin. First, if memory serves me, the news about how bad PERS was went from bad to worse immediately after Kulongoski got sworn in (same with the economic numbers). Second, I am still waiting to hear from the other candidates about their plan (except that moron Saxton who says abolish the whole thing) and what they would have done. Easy to criticize when you aren't in the hot seat.

  • Brian Santo (unverified)

    If I never hear the phrase "throw money at schools" again, it'll be too soon.

    You get what you pay for. Right now we're paying for day care, not education.

  • me3 (unverified)

    I have to laugh at this whole education discussion. Did you see what the head of OEA said today about the Governor's plan. That it does not deal with the short term problem. And, I think he said how are we going to fund music, art and PE.

    One of the problems is that the schools are not willing to make the tough choices. And people like you and I succumb to the NIMBY argument that you should close THOSE schools, not mine (which may only be 50% filled). Also, whey all these levels of administration (ESD's, etc...). The union and others are not willing to battle towards efficiency, hence my original discussion about a health care pooling process (by the way, the Governor, over two years ago, started working on a prescription drug pooling plan for state employees)

  • LT (unverified)

    Did you see what the head of OEA said today about the Governor's plan. That it does not deal with the short term problem. And, I think he said how are we going to fund music, art and PE.

    Me3, are you saying that only the OEA speaks when it comes to schools?

    What about parents? What about the students themselves once they graduate and are old enough to vote? What about groups like Stand for Children and Coalition for School Funding Now?

    It is a false dichotomy that there are "sides"--the anti-tax side and the OEA side.

    It is time to talk about issues like outside audit of school district budgets and spending. Are some people afraid of those because there might be more to the school spending equation than just beating up on unionized school employees?

  • JHL (unverified)

    I think Me3 makes good points about Teddy K's plans... but my concern is this: So far, these are only plans, not policy. Does anyone seriously think he'll show up for the 2007 legislative session to see these through?

    I like Ted's plans. I don't think he can get them done.

    Someone explain why he released his 2005 education plan at a thrown-together press conference in July, when the legislature started wrapping up. More importantly, where was he in January? Was it, like, a suprise that school funding was going to be discussed? I would have liked to seem that meeting:

    "Really -- They're debating school funding? Should I do something?" "No sir, it's usually best if the Governor's office stays out of these things."

  • Gordie (unverified)

    It's nice to have a plan based upon the "state's general fund growing by an average of 12 percent every two years into the next decade." But, it's probably not very realistic. He only proposes raising cigarette taxes. So if the state's general fund grows by only a more realistic amount, what gets short shrift?

  • Dena (unverified)
    <h2>Just as an aside Me3, the proposed plan was to pool health plans not just prescriptions AND the OEA endorsed the idea. It was OSBA who opposed it. This may be a politically viable tax because the majority of people no longer smoke so increases on cigarette taxes usually pass .</h2>
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