Bill Bradbury: passing the buck

T.A. Barnhart

Oregon’s schools are facing terrible problems, including a desperate lack of necessary funding. The shortfall is over $2 billion dollars and growing. Schools have already cut budgets, as one superintendent described it to me prior to the 66/67 vote, “to the bone”. What faces our schools in the coming years can only be termed “brutal”.

Or, perhaps, “inhumane”. You might even choose “stupid”.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Bradbury has a solution: Give state schools the $2 billion they are being short-changed. How? Tax expenditures (aka tax credits) in Oregon currently come to about $30 billion a year. Bradbury wants to trim 5% of the total of those expenditures, which, he asserts, would yield about $2 billion. The obstacle to this plan, of course, is identifying which expenditures can be cut to achieve that amount. As Steve Novick wrote in Blue Oregon previously:

The fact is that the biggest tax expenditures are mostly things like the home mortgage interest deduction, and the exemption of employee health benefits from taxation. I don’t hear Bradbury taking on the home mortgage interest deduction, or proposing taxing employee health benefits as income.

(Novick made a more detailed analysis of this proposal in a later post.)

Bradbury has yet to identify where to find the 5% of cuts in tax expenditures. Worse, he has now decided he will not make that determination at all! Here is the revised Bradbury plan on reducing tax credits to pay for education; he has not posted this to his website but has announced the plan at the last two debates, in Portland and yesterday in Bend. Here are his words from the March 15th Multnomah County debate (audio at this link):

“…do a ballot measure … a ballot measure to the people that would say we would lower tax expenditures by about 5%; that would generate about $2 billion that would be used to fund the Quality Education Model in K-12. That’s the basic proposal. [You] take that to the people [and] once they enact it, you then give it to the Legislature to make the adjustments in tax expenditures.”

You then give it to the Legislature…. Does anyone think House Speaker Dave Hunt and Senate Pres Peter Courtney are going to sit back and say, Thanks, Gov Bradbury! We’ll go find the 5% you refused to identify. Thanks for the chance to really piss-off the voters.

This is the lamest, most weasely type of politics, and it’s disheartening to see it coming from Bill Bradbury. He makes a proposal without taking the responsibility of deciding the actual nature of the policy. Instead, he wants the “people” to mandate the Legislature to make those cuts — in the same way that the people’s mandates contained in Measure 5 and Measure 11 forced the Legislature to start eviscerating state services, bringing us to our current state of affairs.

If Bradbury wants to reduce tax expenditures, it’s his responsibility to at least begin the process of identifying the possible candidates. Start with the easiest 1%, the low-hanging fruit, just to show that it’s possible. Just to show he knows what he’s doing and isn’t grandstanding.

This may be a great idea; when I asked Rep Tina Kotek about it a few weeks back, however, she was underwhelmed. A member of the Ways and Means Committee, Kotek thought $100 million might be possible, but, for the same reason Novick cast doubt on the plan, she didn’t think the state could get anywhere near Bradbury’s $2 billion. She added, “I wish there were, believe me! I’m $1.5 billion short in the Dept of Human Services alone.”

Bill Bradbury likes to talk about how he is the progressive candidate, that he is the one with the experience and plans Oregon needs. I believe he would make an excellent governor, but this particular proposal is wrong in every possible way. The most regrettable aspect of it is that it is the kind of destructive non-leadership he decries from the likes of Sizemore and Mannix: Sending out a great-sounding ballot measure to force the Legislature to do his dirty work.

Either own your proposal, Secretary Bradbury, or drop it. Give us the details of where at least part of the 5% is, or find a new approach to fixing our schools. But whatever you do, stop passing the buck.

Your campaign should be better than that.

  • Bob Baldwin (unverified)

    So where, exactly, does Kitzhaber get additional funding for education, and how much is it?

    I'm sure that's in his public plan, and I just missed it, amongst all the talk about "transforming", "innovation" and "flexibility".

    Precise numbers, please.

    For bonus points, show us the legislation he had introduced to avoid this funding crisis while he was Governor (HB# or SB#, please).

  • (Show?)

    ding ding, Bob gets first place in "Missing the Point!"

  • throowrocks (unverified)

    Cut public employees, their bloated retirement plans. Let Oregonians access natural resources so our unemployed can find a job and feed their family's.

  • Castlerock (unverified)

    What does Bill have to do to get a fair shake around here? He shouldn't be subject to consecutive posts beating him down just because he isn't a Mandate Media client. It's a sad state of affairs when an entire community seemingly falls in line behind whoever is paying Kari.

    I'm not suggesting Steve or TA are foot soldiers. But surely there are supporters of Bill who could rebut some of what they argue. All we're seeing now is a thinly veiled attempt to keep the gravy train rolling.

  • Mr.Read (unverified)

    Ding! Ding! T.A., you get the gold star for facetiously dismissing any dissent as irrelevant.

    Bob gets the point. You're re-hashing an attack on Bradbury already beaten to death last week by Novick, and ignoring the responses to Novick's column. You are also blithely ignoring that the candidate you prefer, Kitzhaber, has no education plan, and has no realistic proposal to fund education in Oregon.

    If you're into handing out "first place" prizes, just curious: how would a public school teacher evaluate your failure to do the homework, and your one-sided argument that fails to acknowledge the glaring weakness of your own position? A C- would be generous.

    Until you take ownership of Kitzhaber's poor record on education, attacking the other guy's plan as "passing the buck" is pure hypocrisy.

    Jack Roberts provided an answer to Bob's last query above in an op-ed in the Oregonian last year. Roberts and the Republicans who controlled the legislature while Kitzhaber was governor had to routinely INCREASE education spending above what Kitzhaber proposed in his budgets.

    Kitzhaber's call for a sales tax is a non-starter, and everyone knows it.

    Further, Kitzhaber appointed the QEM commission as governor, and at least rhetorically called upon the legislature to fund QEM. Now, Kitzhaber says the education model is broken, and that we must re-map government in a post-partisan group hug.

    So, T.A., your guy has abandoned his own education model, hasn't formulated a new one, and has no realistic proposal to fund education. Not exactly ready for an initial public offering.

    Why not get that house in order before re-hashing last week's rhetoric and attacking Bradbury?

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    no Mr Read. i wrote about Bradbury; he responded about Kitz. as Steve Novick has gone to pains to point out, Kitz deserves criticism and pushback in a lot of areas. however that is biden irrelevant to my point about Bradbury's proposal. completely irrelevant -- unless i missed the part where John Kitzhaber will be responsible for implementing Gov Bradbury's policies?

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    Castlerock, i apparently missed the telegram where the Kitz campaign said they would pay me. i've been doing this so far because it is what i believe is right. boy is my face red! so please tell me where my gravy train is cuz i done missed that one badly.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    I respectfully think I've found part of the problem. you democrats are absolutely horrible at anything to do with numbers. 5% of $30 billion is $1.5 billion. When I got my High School diploma, missing your goal by 25% ($2 billion - $1.5 billion = $.5 billion) was nowhere near, "getting close to $2 billion a year".

    However, I have a suggestion of where to kick start the efforts by $2.3 million - Belotti's alleged severance pay for a voluntary resignation.

  • Brian C. (unverified)

    Increasing public education funding is a hard sell in a state where cost per student tends to run on the high side with seemingly less than stellar results. Your most reliable source of funding, the middle to upper class taxpayers are becoming increasingly disgruntled when the only proposed solutions are taking a bigger slice of their pie. Also sense a growing displeasure with those who procreate prolifically while having limited means to support their offspring. Lets throw out some hypothetical numbers. Is it costing us at least 7k annually to educate one pupil? If so, shouldn't the median income earner be contributing roughly that amount into the system per child? Much as I believe in public education I can also understand the beef of those who pay for the schooling of others while some parents contribute next to nothing. Might not be popular on a progressive blog but it's the 2000 pound elephant in the room not many on the left wish to acknowledge.

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    I don't know enough yet about either candidate's entire position on this issue to comment I won't. That said, I'm concerned that Bradbury's getting a bit of an unfair piling on.

    Not to pull us too off topic, but Brian C's comment about Oregon's per pupil spending "running to the high side" seems pretty off-base. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oregon ranks below the national average on that.

  • John (unverified)


    I heard Bradbury give two specific examples at OEA and at the Multnomah County Dems which I guess you were at as well.

    The Foreign Controlled Income Credit ($30 million) and interest deduction for vacation homes (which can't be determined exactly because the current Tax Expenditure Report doesn't break them out but the State Department of Revenue estimates it is in the tens of millions. Does that add to $2 Billion? No. But it is an example of where we can start.

    You seem to be missing the entire point of Bill's proposal. The reason you go to the people in the first place is because 1) as you saw with Measures 66 and 67 opponents are going to refer it anyway and 2) A bill passed by the people will give the Legislature cover to make the tough choices (and they will be tough).

    Oh and criticizing him for "passing the buck" to the Legislature when it is the Legislature who are the ones who will have to implement any effort to increase funding for education is just plain stupid.

    Finally, as others have said on here as well: he who lives in glass houses is best not to throw bricks. Your in a very thin glass house T.A. You support a candidate who has produced over 200 pages of white paper nonsense that is devoid of a single shred of specifics. His greatest campaign accomplishment to date is re-producing is 1994 bumper sticker.

    And you have the gall to criticize his opponent who is at least stepping up and placing ideas on the table that isn't a sales tax (the most regressive form of taxation out there).

    Right now you are Bill Bradbury's biggest asset.

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    John, if you can find some possible sources of cuts, why can't the Bradbury campaign? that's all i'm saying: you don't make THE major policy commitment of your campaign & then refuse to give the details. i didn't say it was a bad idea; i said he has to do something other than dump it on the Leg. i'm not piling on, and i'm tired of people pretending i don't also say he's make an EXCELLENT governor. he would. i prefer Kitzhaber's approach to the job, esp at this point in Oregon's history, and that is completely irrelevant to what i am saying here.

    you make a policy proposal, you take ownership & tell the voters what the ramifications of that policy are. you don't dump it on others to work out.

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    TA, I have to call a little BS here, too. When you wade into a partisan issue and slam a candidate for the benefit of the one you support, you're hardly in a position to take the high road.

    You used the word "weaselly" in you post. I'd say answer Bob or look in the mirror. He asks a legitimate question.

    I still remain mostly neutral in this battle, but it pains me to see good liberals slagging good liberals like this. Given how the candidates have conducted themselves, I don't see the call for sarcasm and derision. Can't you just make your point and move on?

  • Kurt Hagadakis (unverified)

    I was going to post something appropriately snarky, but Jeff covered the bases.

    Seems that immediately coming back with, effectively, "well, what would your candidate do" is called political debate, not missing the point. Unless it was a lecture/sermon.

  • LT (unverified)

    "You seem to be missing the entire point of Bill's proposal. The reason you go to the people in the first place is because 1) as you saw with Measures 66 and 67 opponents are going to refer it anyway and 2) A bill passed by the people will give the Legislature cover to make the tough choices (and they will be tough). "

    The question still is there: who besides Bradbury supports this idea?

    And does "taking it to the people" always have predictable results?

    I'm not actively engaged in either Gov. primary campaign, but I will say what I have said about kicker reform.

    It seems to me that we can have an intelligent discussion (who supports the idea, how exactly will it be worded, etc., is every tax expenditure on the table, would this be a legislative referral--if so, who sponsors the Joint Resolution in the legislature) without talking about which candidate the discussion favors.

    It was my impression that the Revenue Comm. was in the process of setting up sunset debates on all tax expenditures. Rather than bashing a candidate, perhaps someone could talk to members of Revenue, or LRO, or whoever and find out if that is the case.

    If that is not the case, this is a revolutionary idea to start that process in motion. But if that is the case, it would strengthen Bradbury's proposal by including that in speeches---something like "Revenue committee has already begun a process I support, but I would add to it by...".

    After the primary, there will be a general election. And at that point, "But Kitzhaber...." or "But Bradbury..." will be moot points.

    A good idea is a good idea, but logistics are important. Using the name of the opposing candidate does not change that.

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    LT - Fair point about asking what legislators support Secretary Bradbury's proposal. I've asked the same question twice, thus far with no response.

    I think another fair question is whether Secretary Bradbury has approached anyone from the coalition that has been working on the state bank issue for the last couple of years. His proposal was so close to the white paper that Barbara Dudley wrote that one might think that his campaign cribbed her ideas whole cloth, but to the best of my knowledge he hasn't approached her, that coalition, or its legislative supporters.

    If it's a serious proposal, then shouldn't he be speaking with the people who have spent months laying the groundwork to make it a reality regardless of who the next governor is?

    As for Bob's question... I'd reject the premise outright. What's the point of talking about $2 billion in education funding when the overall budget is already $2.5 billion down and local jurisdictions are looking at a $1 billion hit because of the downturn in the performance in PERS investments.

    How about we climb out of the first couple of holes before digging another one?

    As to the solution to funding...

    30 years ago, Oregon's per capita income was 108 percent of the national average. Today we earn 90 percent of the national average in income and we have double-digit unemployment. Personally, I think that the way to meet those shortfalls AND increase funding for education is to rebuild Oregon's economy. We need more jobs and better wages, which means that we need to build Oregon businesses and attract new businesses into the state. The candidate who can spell out some credible plans for doing both without sacrificing the things that we care about as Oregonians is the candidate who deserves to be our next governor, IMHO.

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    Jeff, don't just accuse me of a partisan attack; actually address the issue. Bradbury has made a proposal, and that is independent of Kitz. if he has the opportunity to act on it, it will be because he is governor & not Kitz. what i'm saying is if he is governor & can move this forward, it's wrong for him to dump the tax credit cutting on the Leg -- esp given the nature of the cuts likely to be made (ie, pissing-off a lot of people).

    if Bradbury cannot answer that question, it's not my fault. and it has nothing to do with Kitz' stand on the issues. it has to do with him not taking responsibility for cuts he says are possible. i say he needs to prove, just like Kitz has to prove his proposals (eg, moving the Superintendent of Public Ed into the Gov's office) are viable. feel free to call bs; Bradbury still has yet to say where the cuts will come from. and he is avoiding making that decision himself.

  • Mr.Read (unverified)

    I think what disappoints me most on a Monday here at blueoregon is that there was news regarding the Democratic primary for governor this weekend.

    The Bus Project folks heard from both Bradbury and Kitzhaber this weekend in Bend. Then those progressives -- some with ties to Kitzhaber -- took a straw poll and voted for Bradbury by a large margin.

    That's news, and definitely worthy of discussion here.

    But there's not a blip about it on blueoregon today, though this is the progressive water cooler of Oregon.

    [just flip over to Jeff Mapes's blog to get the story...if it matters to progressive Democrats at blueoregon, it's in the....Oregonian?]

    Instead, checking blueoregon today, we get another column attacking Bradbury -- one that repeats criticism that's been forwarded in three other columns in the last couple of weeks, criticism that's been responded to. Not news.

    What gives?

    One might observe that a pattern is emerging here: Bradbury wins some endorsements (like OEA), or wins a straw poll, and very shortly thereafter gets attacked here at blueoregon to change the subject and re-direct the dialogue about this race to something negative about Bradbury.

    I have seen 5 columns posted here recently by supporters of Kitzhaber that attack Bradbury. These columns do not make a positive case for why Democrats should vote for Kitzhaber.

    There have been 3 columns posted by Bradbury supporters here recently, and they focus on positive attributes of Bradbury and why he would be a good governor. Little if anything was said in those columns that was negative about Kitzhaber.

    I strongly suspect this race is tightening up, and if you're wondering why, that's it in a nutshell.

    Bradbury's for something, and making a positive case for a better Oregon. Kitzhaber's last name is "Kitzhaber" and.....

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    Read: I agree that the Bus Project straw poll is news and worthy of a post. In fact, I was posting a link to Mapes while you were typing your comment. I didn't put it up yesterday largely because TypePad was not allowing comments to get through.

  • LT (unverified)

    Mr. Read, the electorate is larger than the folks who went to Rebooting.

    I am still waiting to hear what policy idea won the Policy Contest, which one came in second.

    Why don't you look at the Guest Opinion guidelines? Maybe you could write a column about Rebooting: what happened with the straw poll, what happened with the policy contests, which speaker impressed you the most and why.

    I liked what TA said, "if Bradbury cannot answer that question, it's not my fault. and it has nothing to do with Kitz' stand on the issues. it has to do with him not taking responsibility for cuts he says are possible. i say he needs to prove, just like Kitz has to prove his proposals (eg, moving the Superintendent of Public Ed into the Gov's office) are viable. feel free to call bs; Bradbury still has yet to say where the cuts will come from. and he is avoiding making that decision himself."

    Let's see who can answer the question first:

    Bill, who actually supports the Bank of Oregon and/or the tax expenditures to pay for education--which groups, which politicians, not to mention people who might be involved in implementation.

    John, who actually supports putting the St. Supt. in the Gov. office? Castillo? Maurer? Chairs of legislative Education Committees? Chalkboard Project? COSA? OSBA? unions?

    And I'd like each to answer the question about administrative pay (both at the state level and at the school district level): Who should have oversight over top management salaries? Who evaluates performance and pay packages? Before we hear one more word about those over paid, under worked unionized teachers, could we please hear if anyone has checked to see how many of such folks who are paid over $100,000 also have a car allowance? If so, what is the justification?

    As has been said before in other years, everyone at BO could agree that a particular primary candidate is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and that would likely have little if any effect on the actual primary vote.

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    Jeff, don't just accuse me of a partisan attack; actually address the issue.

    But that's what you wrote. I'm hardly in a position to write a response for the Bradbury campaign. But I can speak to the tenor of your post, which was uncalled for. And since you invited the debate, you best be ready to have it.

  • Bob Baldwin (unverified)

    OK, I'll connect the dots more clearly, for TA's benefit.

    Bradbury's plan lacks key specifics, and can be criticized for pushing details to the leg and ballot measures. But it is, at least, the outline of a plan: reduce tax expenditures to fund education, at a $2B level.

    Kitz's plan is...? As far as I can tell, it's leveraging synergies to achieve flexibility. Or something.

    Beyond which, Kitz, unlike Bradbury, has eight years of history in the job. I can accept his proposals not having been adopted by a R leg, but his proposals, or lack thereof, are his record.

    FTR: while my union endorsed Bradbury, I'm personally uncommitted and underwhelmed. But for education, Bradbury is above Kitz, at this point.

    TA, OTOH, is a Kitz partisan, and as such his "just criticize Bradbury; ignore Kitz" demand for the thread can't be taken at face value.

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    Castlerock wrote: What does Bill have to do to get a fair shake around here? He shouldn't be subject to consecutive posts beating him down just because he isn't a Mandate Media client. It's a sad state of affairs when an entire community seemingly falls in line behind whoever is paying Kari.

    <h1>1. Bill is getting plenty of a fair shake around here. I've posted a number of guest columns in recent days and regularly encourage other editors to write about Bill.</h1> <h1>2. Nearly all of BlueOregon's contributors joined us long before anyone knew anything about the makeup of the 2010 gubernatorial primary. Our contributors can write whatever they want. I'm still hopeful that the Bradbury campaign will decide it's a priority for them to actually contact our contributors and make their case.</h1> <h1>3. I support Kitzhaber, but I've been one of the strongest defenders of Bill Bradbury around here -- especially whenever anyone posts personal attacks on the guy. I consider Bill a friend, and I think he'd make a fine governor. And, by the way, I'm confident that John Kitzhaber agrees with me.</h1> <h1>4. Steve Novick and TA Barnhart do not constitute an "entire community". They are two guys with opinions.</h1> <h1>5. Are you really suggesting that Steve Novick would "fall in line" with whoever I support? Really? Were you here in 2007 and 2008? Seriously.</h1>
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    Jeff, are you kidding? i wrote about Bradbury's proposal; what have you actually said in response to his proposal? demonstrate i'm wrong about that part -- that he isn't making this proposal, that he has not refused to identify what tax expenditures he will cut -- and we can go from there. you have not done that; you cannot do that. the proposal is what it is, and we have that from Bradbury's own (recorded) words.

    frankly, if Sizemore or Mannix had made this proposal -- force the Leg to make unspecified cuts to tax expenditures -- people would be lining up to help defeat it. why are you giving Bradbury a free ride on this?

  • Joshua Welch (unverified)
    <h2>Most of the criticism of Bradbury that I have seen on BO seems to have been fair. However, what seems to be missing is the same level of criticism of Kitzhaber. I don't have a dog in this fight and I haven't read every post, but it sure seems like Kitzhaber is getting the VIP treatment.</h2>

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