Tennessee Special Needs Kids Get Choices in Education

Tennessee just became the 28th state to enact a private school choice program, giving parents more options for their children’s education. Governor Bill Haslam signed the nation’s fourth Education Savings Account law on Monday.

Arizona, Florida, and Mississippi already allowed parents to have some control over the funding allocated for their kids’ education through Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs are a flexible way for parents to manage some of the money that otherwise would be used for their kids’ education in their zoned public school. ESAs allow parents to pay for different kinds of educational services that may be the best fit for their children, including tuition, online courses, tutoring, therapy, or other categories of expenses defined by law.

Now, Tennessee children with an Individualized Education Plan will be able to use state and local funds, plus special education funds to which they would be entitled, for the schools and services their parents judge will best meet their individual needs. This law empowers parents of children with autism and many other special needs to get the help they need to succeed in school.

Parents of children with special needs want less red tape and more options. ESAs empower families to find and pay for those options, providing winning solutions for children. Oregon children should be given this opportunity, too.

June 1st Public Debate: Do Citizens in a Free Society Have a Right to Privacy in Charitable Giving?

Do you donate to any nonprofit organizations such as charities, churches, or think tanks? Would you rather not be subject to possible retribution for supporting what others might think are the “wrong ideas”? Then you won’t want to miss a free public debate on donor privacy the evening of Monday, June 1 in Portland.

As debates on controversial topics such as global warming and gay marriage heat up, there are calls to make organizations espousing views on such issues reveal not only the names of their donors, but their addresses, occupations, and employers, just like political candidate committees must do.

Such disclosures could deter some people from donating at all, thus stifling the free exchange of ideas that helps make our society strong.

Arguing in favor of donor privacy will be James Huffman, Dean Emeritus of Lewis & Clark Law School. Jim was the 2010 Oregon Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Arguing for donor disclosure will be Dan Meek, a public interest attorney in Portland. Dan is Co-chair of the Independent Party of Oregon.

The debate will be moderated by Willamette Week’s Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Nigel Jaquiss.

Join us the evening of June 1 in Portland for this public debate asking whether citizens in a free society have a right to privacy in charitable giving.

Full details and free tickets are available at CascadePolicy.org.

Event Video – Aging Roads? New Ideas!

Cascade welcomed transportation expert Adrian Moore, Ph.D., Vice President of Policy for Reason Foundation, at a special event at Multnomah Athletic Club on April 29, 2015. Adrian gave a lively, informative, and interactive presentation on a variety of transportation innovations and road financing options. The discussion ranged from topics such as driverless cars to wireless transponders. If you missed the event, you can watch it here. We hope to see you at Cascade’s next event!

Do citizens in a free society have a right to privacy in charitable giving?

Cascade Policy Institute

presents

A Debate on Privacy in Charitable Giving

 featuring

 James Huffman, J.D.

and

Dan Meek, J.D.

 

“Do citizens in a free society have a right to privacy

with respect to their charitable giving?”

  

Is there a compelling public interest in knowing the sources of funding to nonprofit charitable institutions?

Should all such organizations be forced to reveal the names, address, and employers of their donors,

as is now required for most political giving?

 

Arguing in favor of donor privacy will be James Huffman, Dean Emeritus of Lewis & Clark Law School. Arguing for public disclosure will be Dan Meek, a public interest attorney and Co-chair of the Independent Party of Oregon.  Moderating will be Nigel Jaquiss, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with Willamette Week. This debate is sponsored by the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

 

Background: Contributions to candidates running for elective office must be disclosed to the public. The donor must reveal his or her name, address, occupation, and employer. These “donor transparency” requirements may deter some individuals from making political contributions if they anticipate the likelihood of retribution for backing the “wrong” candidate.

Contributions to nonprofit charitable organizations do not carry the same requirements. However, in recent years, pressure has been growing to require charitable organizations to reveal more information about their donors. For example, during February 2015, U.S. Representative Raul M. Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District who is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, sent letters to the heads of seven universities requesting donor information related to professors at those institutions who had previously testified before Congress regarding global warming and related topics.

The universities, including MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Alabama-Huntsville, were asked to turn over to Congress such information as the source of funding, amount of funding, and the reason for receiving the funding related to the named professors.

 

About James Huffman:

Jim Huffman is Dean Emeritus of Lewis & Clark Law School and a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a graduate of Montana State University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and the University of Chicago Law School. Over a forty-year career at Lewis & Clark, he taught many courses, including constitutional law and constitutional history. As the 2010 Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Oregon, Jim learned much about the legal and practical implications of campaign finance regulation.

 

About Dan Meek:

Dan Meek is a public interest attorney in Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate of Stanford law school and has served as counsel at the California Energy Commission and as staff director of two Congressional subcommittees. He has practiced law in Portland since 1987, representing electricity ratepayers, political parties, candidates, and nonprofit organizations. He is Co-chair of the Independent Party of Oregon, representing more than 5% of Oregon registered voters.


About Nigel Jaquiss:

Nigel Jaquiss has been a journalist with Willamette Week since 1997. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for his 2004 story exposing former Governor Neil Goldschmidt’s sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl while serving as Portland Mayor.

 

Dessert buffet

Complimentary coffee, tea, iced tea

No-host bar (cash only)

This event is free. RSVP by May 29.

 

***

Cascade Policy Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations are tax deductible and accepted with gratitude.

Cosponsors:

The Federalist Society Portland Lawyers’ Chapter

Roggendorf Law LLC

Policy Picnic – May 20, 2015


Please join us for our monthly Policy Picnic led by Cascade board chair and economist Dr. Bill Conerly


Topic: Economic Inequality: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Implications

Description: Economic inequality has been the hottest topic in public policy in 2015. Please join us as Cascade board chair Dr. Bill Conerly discusses reasons for changes in inequality and possible policy responses to this controversial issue.

Although Dr. Conerly is best known for his work applying economics to business challenges, he studied income distribution under the top professor in the field (Martin Bronfenbrenner of Duke University) and has written on inequality for Forbes.com.

This free, informal event promises to be a lively, interactive discussion about one of the most debated topics in policy–and politics–today. RSVP soon, as space is limited. 

Admission is free. Please feel free to bring your own lunch.
Coffee and cookies will be served. 
 
Sponsored by:
Dumas Law Group

 

A Generational Mistake

The Oregon Supreme Court last week struck down key 2013 legislative reforms to the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) that would have saved taxpayers billions of dollars.

The Court in effect added some $5 billion back to the unfunded liability of the PERS system, which will now stand at over $14 billion. If not offset by new taxes or spending reductions elsewhere, public bodies such as school districts and state agencies will have to allocate even more of their budgets to pay for worker retirement benefits.

Before most Oregonians understood that the state retirement system was headed for trouble, Cascade Policy Institute published a 2001 report which concluded that “PERS is almost guaranteed to fall into steep unfunded liabilities over and over again because of its design.”

This conclusion was seconded last week when EcoNorthwest economist John Tapogna noted that “Oregon made a generational mistake in public policy, and the Supreme Court has essentially ruled that we have to live with it.” He noted, “That puts Oregon in a challenging economic position for the next couple of decades.”

The best way to keep such generational mistakes from happening again is to limit the size and scope of government so that future politicians have less control over our lives. Let’s make the $14 billion PERS generational mistake our last.

Aging Roads? New Ideas!

Cascade Policy Institute

presents

Aging Roads? New Ideas!

 Adrian Moore

featuring

Adrian Moore, Ph.D.

Vice President of Policy at Reason Foundation

The City of Portland is grappling with ways to pay for the rising costs of maintaining and building roads. The Oregon Department of Transportation is facing a similar problem with the state highway system. Adrian Moore is Vice President of the Reason Foundation and an international expert in transportation finance policy. His presentation will feature the latest innovations in highway, tunnel, bridge and road finance from around the world, with commentary about how these ideas might be applicable to Oregon.

About Adrian Moore:

Moore has testified before Congress and regularly advises federal, state and local officials on policy initiatives.  He is a member of the Transportation Research Board, and in 2006 he was appointed by Congress to serve on the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Finance Commission.  In 2009 he was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to California’s Public Infrastructure Advisory Commission.

Mr. Moore is co-author of the book Curb Rights: A Foundation for Free Enterprise in Urban Transit, published in 1997 by the Brookings Institution Press, which was runner up for the Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Award, and of Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century published in November 2008.  And he is author of dozens of policy studies and articles.  

Mr. Moore earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. He holds a Master’s in Economics from the University of California, Irvine and a Master’s in History from California State University, Chico.

Dessert buffet

Complimentary coffee, tea, iced tea

No-host bar (cash only) 

$15 advance payment (April 27th) — $20 after April 27th and at the door (if seating available)

***

Cascade Policy Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations are tax deductible and accepted with gratitude.


If the state loses $1.4 billion for schools and nobody notices, did it really happen?

The Oregon legislature is in the midst of its biennial quest for more public school funding. Advocates are so desperate for cash that they are even proposing that the state seize gift cards as “abandoned property” if some portion of the original value remains unused after three years.

While grabbing gift cards is certainly creative, it will not materially affect school funding. A much more lucrative source is available if we have the political will: selling the 93,000-acre Elliott State Forest (ESF) and placing the net receipts (likely to be $400 million or more) into the Common School Fund, where investments typically earn 8% or more annually.

In fact, the failure of the state to sell the Elliott 20 years ago when it was first proposed has already cost schools at least $1.4 billion in lost value. It’s a mystery as to why school advocates are willing to accept this.

The Elliott is located on the South Coast near Reedsport. By law, most of the timber must be managed to maximize revenue for the “common schools.” Unfortunately, over the past 20 years, timber harvesting on the ESF has plummeted due to environmental litigation. As a result, in 2013 the state actually lost $3 million on the Elliott, then lost more money in 2014. These losses drain money from public schools.

This disaster could have been avoided. In 1994, the state commissioned a study of ways to increase net revenues on the Elliott. The consultant reported that “selling the ESF would be the most effective way to maximize CSF revenues.”

The State Land Board (made up of the Governor, the Secretary of State, and the State Treasurer) considered selling the Elliott in 1996 but rejected the idea. That decision locked the state into a revenue death spiral on the forest.

The extent of that loss was quantified by the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) in a report published last November. The chart below summarizes the results:

Simulated Prior Elliott Sale versus Actual Elliott Management

 

Simulation Simulated endowment in 2014

Simulated distribution over time period

Estimated residual land value Total value over time period
(Actual) managed for timber since 1995 $1.4 billion $0.7 billion $0.4 billion $2.5 billion
Sale in 1995 and invested proceeds $2.5 billion $1.4 billion $0 $3.9 billion
Buyout in 2005 and invested proceeds $1.8 billion $0.8 billion $0 $2.6 billion

Source: Oregon Department of State Lands, November 2014

The failure to sell the ESF in 1995 cost schools $1.4 billion in lost value. That is a very large number, not only in absolute terms, but compared with public losses elsewhere that have resulted in resignations and political scandal.

For example, the U.S. Congress is investigating the disappearance of $305 million in federal funds spent on Cover Oregon. At the state level, the Oregon Department of Justice has just opened a civil and criminal investigation into the $11.8 million of energy tax credits issued for an array of solar panels installed by several state universities.

Yet the loss of $1.4 billion in school funding seems to be uninteresting to school advocates. No lawsuits have been filed, and no investigations are underway.

The legislature should insist that the Governor, the Secretary of State, and the Treasurer turn the Elliott from a liability into an asset, as required by law. Selling the entire forest is the best option for doing that.


John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Looking at ObamaCare, Five Years On

By Sally C. Pipes

ObamaCare turned five years old March 23. But don’t break out the cake and candles. There’s not much to celebrate. When he signed his signature piece of legislation into law, President Obama guaranteed lower health costs, universal coverage, and higher-quality care. Five years later, the health law has failed to fulfill those promises.

“In the Obama administration,” candidate Obama boasted in 2008, “we’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family in a year.”

A recent report by HealthPocket, an online insurance marketplace, has revealed that premiums for individual Americans skyrocketed after ObamaCare became law.

Drug costs have jumped, too, despite promises to the contrary from the Obama administration. The majority of health plans offered on the exchanges have shifted costs for expensive medications onto patients, according to a study by Avalere Health. In 2015, more than 40 percent of all “silver” exchange plans―the most commonly purchased―charged patients 30 percent or more for specialty drugs. Only 27 percent of silver plans did so last year. Part of the problem is that the health law has quashed market competition.

The president promised in 2013 that “this law means more choice, more competition, lower costs for millions of Americans.” But that hasn’t turned out to be true. According to the Heritage Foundation, the number of insurers selling to individual consumers in the exchanges this year is 21.5 percent less than the number that were on the market in 2013―the year before the law took effect.

The Government Accountability Office reports that insurers have left the market in droves. In 2013, 1,232 carriers offered insurance coverage in the individual market. By 2015, that number had shrunk to 310.

With competition in the exchanges on the decline, quality is going down, too―just like President Obama said in 2013: “Without competition, the price of insurance goes up, and the quality goes down.”

Consumers who purchase insurance on the law’s exchanges have fewer options than they had pre-ObamaCare. The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. noted that roughly two-thirds of the hospital networks available on the exchanges were either “narrow” or “ultra-narrow.” That means that these insurance plans have refused to partner with at least 30 percent of the area’s hospitals. Other plans exclude more than 70 percent.

Patients may also have fewer doctors to pick from. More than 60 percent of doctors plan to retire earlier than anticipated―by 2016 or sooner, according to Deloitte. The Physicians Foundation reported in the fall that nearly half of all doctors―especially those with more experience―considered ObamaCare’s reforms a failure.

While more Americans may have insurance thanks to ObamaCare, they may not be able to find a doctor to see them. That’s a recipe for waiting lists and de facto rationed care.

Finally, five years on, President Obama’s declaration that he would not sign a plan that “adds one dime to our deficits―either now or in the future” looks more ridiculous than ever. In 2010, the Congressional Budget Office anticipated ObamaCare’s decade-long cost was $940 billion. This year, the CBO more than doubled that price tag, with a new estimate of $2 trillion.

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this June on King v. Burwell, a case that threatens to negate the law’s subsidies. If the court rules against the administration, ObamaCare would unravel.

Obama has been proven wrong about what his health law would accomplish. Quality hasn’t improved, and costs continue to grow. That’s ObamaCare’s five-year legacy.


Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. She is a guest contributor for Cascade Policy Institute. A version of this article was originally published by The Orange County Register.

Oregon Seniors Deserve Truth in Medicare Reform

By Steve Buckstein and Patrick M. Gleason

If Congress doesn’t act by the end of this month, when payment cuts to Medicare providers are scheduled to hit, there will be a major health care crisis. Topping the to-do list is addressing urgent problems with Medicare, the most costly federal program and the largest driver of national debt. Failure to act would have harsh ramifications for seniors and caregivers in Oregon.

The first step is to address accounting gimmicks that hide Medicare’s true cost and its effect on federal debt in the years ahead. The program operates under a phony spending baseline that conceals its true cost.

How did this come about? In 1997, Congress instituted a new spending formula, the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). It would institute physician reimbursement rate cuts in order to ensure that Medicare spending did not exceed the rate of economic growth. Noble goal, except that’s not what happened.

In 2003, the first time Medicare cuts were scheduled to take place under SGR, lawmakers balked and delayed the scheduled reduction in physician payments. In the 11 years since, Congress has delayed these scheduled payment cuts a whopping 17 times. This maneuver is referred to as the “doc fix.”

The Congressional Budget Office is forced to operate under the assumption that Congress will comply with SGR, even though the last 11 years have shown that to be pure fantasy. CBO treats passage of a doc fix as a spending increase. But it’s not, in reality, because Congress always passes a temporary reprieve. The worst kept secret on Capitol Hill is that Congress will always, just in the nick of time, pass a doc fix to prevent these payment reductions.

Underscoring this fact, for the first time ever, even Medicare’s own actuaries admitted last year that scheduled SGR payment cuts never would occur. The solution is to end this game, start being honest with ourselves, pass a permanent doc fix, and move on to reforms necessary to ensure the nation’s fiscal health and Medicare’s sustainability.

For Oregon, failure to pass a permanent doc fix would reduce seniors’ access to care. Oregon has 16 practicing physicians per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries, which is below the national average. If Congress does not act, the result will be a 24 percent across-the-board pay cut for caregivers treating Medicare patients. With 46 percent of Oregon’s physicians over the age of 50, the age at which surveys show many physicians begin to consider cutting back on patient care, scheduled provider cuts would only exacerbate Oregon’s problems with access to care.

A temporary doc fix breeds corruption and legislative chicanery, producing a gold mine for lobbyists and political fundraisers. Worse, the constant need to pass an emergency, temporary doc fix distracts from much-needed Medicare reforms. If Congress continues to ignore the unsustainable trajectory of Medicare spending, the result will be harm to seniors and a federal budget drowning in red ink.

Fixing what’s wrong with Medicare is the top health and budgetary issue facing the country. As former Congressional Budget Director Doug Holtz-Eakin warns, “By 2020, as Baby Boomers continue to age into Medicare at the rate of more than 10,000 a day, Medicare’s cumulative $6.2 trillion in cash flow deficits will constitute 35 percent of the nation’s total debt accumulation.”

It’s time for members of Congress to stop kicking this can down the road, institute truth in accounting by passing a permanent doc fix, roll up their collective sleeves, and get to work on the real reforms that will save Medicare and put the nation on a sound fiscal path.


Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. Patrick Gleason is director of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, D.C. The Bend Bulletin newspaper op-ed version of this commentary was originally published on March 25, 2015 here: www.bendbulletin.com/opinion/3004859-151/letter-oregonians-deserve-medicare-reform.

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