In 2011 Cascade celebrates its 20th anniversary. Formed shortly after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, the Institute’s growth since 1991 is a tribute to the principles which form its foundation and to the ideas that arise from them.
Much has changed since then and continues to change in Oregon, America and the world. More people are free from arbitrary government constraints than ever before. Open markets and property rights are now recognized as essential elements of a free and prosperous society. Cascade is part of a growing network of think tanks worldwide finding a growing acceptance of these classical liberal ideas.
We founded Cascade to promote public policy that advances individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon. We were convinced then, and are still convinced today, that these ideas and principles will produce positive consequences for all Oregonians.
The idea for Cascade actually emerged from an initiative campaign that I and a small group organized and placed on Oregon’s 1990 general election ballot. Measure 11 would have provided refundable tax credits to every K-12 student in the state, which they could use to attend any public, private, religious or home school of their choice. No state had ever voted on such a sweeping reform before, and we felt it was time for Oregon to lead the way.
As it became clear that we would not win that election campaign, we began thinking about how we could move our school choice agenda forward in the future. We decided that Oregon needed a free-market think tank to advocate for school choice as well as other limited-government ideas. That’s why, barely two months after Measure 11 lost at the polls, we incorporated Cascade Policy Institute in January 1991.
Cascade began with a one-person staff (me) and a vision of a freer society in Oregon. We began researching, writing and hosting speakers on a number of important public policy topics. We strategically hired additional staff and built a board of directors capable of carrying our vision forward.
Today, Cascade has a team of twelve full-time staff and eight board members. We now concentrate on a number of policy areas including tax and budget, education reform, health care reform, land use, transit, energy and climate change, and rural policy. We also facilitate the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, which has helped hundreds of low-income students attend the tuition-based schools of their choice.
Cascade has become the “go to” organization for legislators and news media around the state looking for a limited government, free-market perspective on legislation and the issues of the day. And, we host Oregon Capitol News which provides timely news and investigative stories about Oregon policy and politics.
Our budget has grown from $57,000 in the first year to one million dollars today. In our first twenty years, supporters of liberty and markets have voluntarily donated ten million tax-deductible dollars to support the Institute’s work. That’s a generous sum for an organization in a small state, whose primary “products” are ideas. We believe our donors’ funds have been well spent, and we greatly appreciate the faith they have placed in us to promote our ideals for the betterment of all Oregonians.
As we enter our second twenty years working for Oregonians, we will take a few hours in May to stop and celebrate what we’ve accomplished. We hope you can join us for a Willamette River Cruise on the Portland Spirit the evening of May 26, 2011. Details will be available soon. In the meantime, thanks for all your support, financial and otherwise. We couldn’t do it without our supporters and fans.