Year: 2003

Can-do unions compete to reduce cost of government

QuickPoint!

Union workers in Patient Business Services at Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) recently faced a challenge. Their work — billing and collections — was being put up for competitive bidding.

With the help of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 328, the workers (more…)

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Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Do you believe in Santa Claus? By the time most of us stop believing in a literal Santa Claus, we are well on our way to believing in a figurative one that goes by the name welfare state, or big government.

Have trouble feeding your family? Santa State can help. Need affordable housing? Welfare Santa to the rescue.

What got me to say such (more…)

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Halfway There: Measure 5 and the Road Ahead

Preface

Watershed events often become dividing lines in history. Twenty-five years ago, Californians created such a line when they voted to reduce their property tax burden through Proposition 13. Thirteen years ago, Oregonians drew a similar line when they voted for Measure 5 to reduce their property tax burden.

Mythology surrounds such events, and Measure 5 is no exception. (more…)

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ODOT embraces congestion

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) just announced its intention to increase traffic congestion in nearly 50 small cities and towns where state highways become downtown main streets. The Oregon Transportation Commission, which governs ODOT, plans to adopt rules at its January 14 meeting that would allow traffic speeds on these highways to be reduced through such techniques as more pedestrian crosswalks, wider sidewalks, and adding street parking.

Though accommodating pedestrians on a downtown thoroughfare is (more…)

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To build a greater sense of community

QuickPoint!

Until the February 3, 2004 vote on recalling the legislature’s $1 billion tax increase, we can expect countless editorials about how a successful recall will hurt Oregon’s poor, the elderly and children. What the editorials won’t say, however, is that higher taxes and more government stifle community solutions.

In the spring of 2003 a great sense of community was (more…)

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Improving Public Schools Requires Changing the System

Despite reform efforts, school performance is improving slowly, if at all, and continues to be very inequitable between racial and income groups. Though the causes are typically presumed to be located within the classroom, the system itself perpetuates inequity and poor performance. This paper proposes two systemic changes: allow funding to follow children to the school their parents choose and remove the exclusive franchise of school districts, thereby allowing multiple providers of public education within one geographic region. Together these changes would provide the framework for an education system that offers students and professionals a wide range of opportunity and freedom to pursue success. (more…)

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Can you hear us now?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

As Yogi Bera said, “this is like deja vu all over again.” Last December Oregon legislators waited to see if voters would buy their January 28th income tax increase. It was soundly rejected. This month, legislators wait to see if those same voters will accept their $1.1 billion tax package, set for a vote February 3rd.

One difference is that last January’s vote was (more…)

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Attorney General begs for more federal regulation

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

On October 23 the Attorneys General for 12 states, including Oregon, joined with three cities and 14 environmental groups to sue the federal government for its failure to begin regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) as a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded earlier this year that it has no legal authority to regulate CO2.

That environmental groups are suing is no surprise; the question is (more…)

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Doctors cut prices!

QuickPoint!

A movement is afoot that is driving health care costs down. Among the leaders in Oregon are Drs. Mike Jaczko in Carlton, Manya Helman in Salem, and Char Glenn in Portland.

These physicians provide low prices for patients who pay for services at the time they are rendered. This reduces clinic overhead costs, and (more…)

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Eminent domain can’t pay for memories

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

At 70-years old, Bob Lowery isn’t anxious to sell the home he and his wife live in: the decades of family memories it holds can’t be replaced at any price. One of his children was born in the house. However, the City of Keizer might condemn it and several other parcels of private property so a developer can build a shopping mall.

The use of eminent domain is supposed to be (more…)

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Oregon’s hunger ranking: Much ado about nothing

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Oregon can no longer claim the dubious honor of being the “hungriest state in the nation.” According to the 2002 food insecurity rankings released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), that title now belongs to Oklahoma, whose hunger rate of 5.1 percent edged out Oregon by one-tenth of a percent.

Though this change will likely be fodder for (more…)

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Why are health care costs going down?

QuickPoint!

People are becoming smart shoppers when it comes to health care. That’s helping to control and reduce costs. (Please note: There is a difference between health care and health insurance.)

More organizations have begun to buy health insurance the same way they (more…)

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Who’s responsible for your children’s education?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Who is responsible for your children’s education? One hundred fifty years ago the answer would have been obvious, parents were responsible. Today, that answer is much more debatable.

Two years ago a Portland Public Schools board member proclaimed (more…)

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The gridlocking of Portland

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Last week the Texas Transportation Institute released its annual congestion rankings, and named Portland the 8th-worst city in America for traffic. Portland officials, upset that even Seattle is now ranked more favorably (12th), complained vehemently that the survey was inaccurate and besmirched Portland’s reputation as the nation’s most livable city.

But it’s difficult to understand why (more…)

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Do I hear $75,000? $65,000 plus benefits?

QuickPoint!

Competitive bidding has been successfully employed around the world to help reduce the cost of government services and improve their quality. Competitive bidding could help reduce government payroll costs.

Jerry Yudelson wrote about this idea many years ago in The Daily Journal of Commerce. He developed the idea while (more…)

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How unfriendly to small business can Oregon get?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The Small Business Survival Committee just released its 2003 Small Business Survival Index, which ranks states according to how friendly their policies are for small business and entrepreneurship. Oregon falls close to the bottom; only eight states and the District of Columbia are worse.

A $38 billion deficit helped sink (more…)

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Check your wallets

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

During the 2003 session of the Oregon legislature, TriMet submitted legislation authorizing the agency to increase its regional payroll tax rate by 17 percent. The payroll tax, which is levied on all businesses and self-employed individuals within TriMet’s service territory, is the primary revenue source for the agency and raises more than $150 million annually.

TriMet’s legislation passed the Senate but was (more…)

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The Mythical World of Transit-Oriented Development: Steele Park in Washington County, Oregon

Introduction

During the past decade, Portland-area planners have embraced Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as the region’s dominant land use/transportation strategy. They assert that TOD, especially based on light rail, will reduce traffic congestion, increase transit use, and make neighborhoods more livable. Transit-oriented development is generally defined as compact, mixed-use development that concentrates retail, housing and jobs in neighborhoods well-served by public transit. TOD has become so important to local planners that it is now the primary justification for expansion of Portland’s light rail system. Rail advocates concede that light rail is not worth the cost if it is built only as a transit system. (more…)

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A fine-tooth budgetary comb

QuickPoint!

On September 9, Alabama voters rejected a $1.2 billion tax increase. Some 67 percent of voters just said no.

This past January, Oregonians said no to a “temporary” three-year income tax hike when they (more…)

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Freedom to trade promotes peace

QuickPoint!

When goods don’t cross borders, armies will, warned 18th Century French statesman Frederic Bastiat. In light of September 11, Bastiat’s warning should be updated to include terrorists. The freedom to trade and peace are interconnected. This link is important to remember, especially as you read about the WTO’s Fifth Ministerial Conference in Cancun (Sept. 10-14).

Throngs of protestors in Cancun will attack (more…)

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Is Oregon Really the Hungriest State in the Nation?

John A. Charles, Jr.

If numbers don’t lie, Marie and her two little boys should be going hungry. A high school dropout at 17, she became pregnant, got married, and had a second child all by age 19. She separated from her husband at 20. She brings home $500 a month as a receptionist for a garden products company.

Now 22, Marie (not her real name) has lived in more than half a dozen apartments and houses in east Multnomah County during the past five years. Until recently she relied on public transit, which limited her job options. Last year she bought a small Geo that her day care provider sold at a discount. (more…)

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Takin’ it to the streets — again

QuickPoint!

What do you think about the recent politician-approved three-year “temporary” state income tax increase? Regardless of your answer, you’ll likely get the chance to speak your mind at the polls.

Citizens for a Sound Economy-Oregon and the Taxpayers Association of Oregon are working to place (more…)

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Stop the highway slaughter

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The tragic deaths of eight young firefighters this week on Highway 20 near the Idaho border was a grim reminder of how unsafe many of Oregon’s roads are. While other states have fully integrated networks of high-speed turnpikes or parkways, Oregon’s highway system — if one can call it that — is a hodgepodge of interstate highways, country roads, and urban arterials.

Impatient drivers treat these thru ways as if (more…)

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Regulation leads to blackouts

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Advocates of government regulation are crowing over last Thursday’s biggest-ever electricity blackout in the Eastern United States and Canada. They mistakenly blame electricity deregulation.

Apparently, power flows in the region’s connected transmission systems became dangerously (more…)

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Oregon spendaholics must learn fiscal responsibility

QuickPoint!

The Statesman Journal has a counter on its website tallying the taxpayer burden of our legislators’ budgetary gridlock. With each day the Legislature is in session the cost continues to rise. Currently the cost is nearing $4.6 million. This is a staggering sum, but the true fiscal damage results from how much legislators continue to spend.

The governor’s revised budget shows that (more…)

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PERS reforms are not "forcing" people out

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The mass exodus of Oregon public employees—due to pending changes in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS)—has become a news diet staple. The August 4 Oregonian headline was typical: “PERS changes cause bailout.” The story featured several long-time public employees who are reluctantly retiring in their mid-50s so they can collect their pensions before legislatively mandated changes take effect that would reduce their benefits.

For employees who had planned to work into their 60s, early retirement is (more…)

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Peaceful revolution and recalling politicians

QuickPoint!

John F. Kennedy once remarked, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Think seriously about JFK’s words as the recall effort against California Gov. Gray Davis continues.

Oregon voters passed an initiative 95 years ago that helps (more…)

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Now Playing: Tax to the Future

QuickPoint!

Why should doing something that is legal today land you in jail tomorrow? It shouldn’t, and the framers of our U.S. Constitution made that abundantly clear.

Article 1 Section 9 reads, “No … ex post facto Law shall be passed” by Congress; Article 1 Section 10 declares, “No State shall … pass … any ex post facto Law …” The Oregon Constitution Section 21 concurs, “No ex post facto law … shall ever be passed …” There can be little doubt that (more…)

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An alternative to tuition increases

QuickPoint!

The Oregon Board of Higher Education approved a change that allows state universities to charge students based on the number of credits they take. Schools can now raise fees for students taking heavy course loads.

Opponents of the higher fees pointed to the (more…)

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Lincoln County schools clean up

QuickPoint!

Salem-Keizer School District board members just learned that they could have reduced expenses $2 million a year by contracting out bus services to a private company. That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, the district committee that studied the private bids did not notify the school board about the potential savings; rather, it recommended (more…)

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Euphemisms and American Revolutions

QuickPoint!

Former Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh just testified in Salem about fixing the state’s tax system-that’s a euphemism for increasing taxes. He told legislators, “We are not elected to make only the easy decisions.”

First things first, Oregon government has a spending problem, and legislators have already (more…)

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A qualified teacher in every classroom

QuickPoint!

A June 22 Oregonian story reported that a significant number of Oregon middle school teachers will probably not meet the definition of “highly qualified,” as outlined in the federal No Child Left Behind act. To meet this requirement teachers must have taken significant coursework, or passed a standardized exam, in their teaching area.

The failure to put qualified teachers in classrooms in Oregon and other states is (more…)

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Oregon’s Animal Farm

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The legislature and governor have signed off on reforms to Oregon’s extravagent Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). The next chapter in this saga is whether legislators will stay in the very system they created and are now trying to rein in.

Under PERS our legislators are treated the same as (more…)

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Metro Brew: More pork, less mobility

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

On June 12 a powerful Metro committee, JPACT, will decide how to spend $53 million in federal gas tax money. This tax is paid by Oregon motorists, laundered through a bureaucracy back in Washington, D.C., then returned to Oregon as “flexible funds” to be spent on any transportation project Metro approves. Although motorists paid the taxes, they will receive almost no benefits.

JPACT is what’s known as a (more…)

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Roughing the kicker

QuickPoint!

A move is afoot in the Oregon legislature to increase taxes by watering down or eliminating “the kicker.” We the people placed the kicker into the Oregon Constitution in 2000. When tax dollars taken from us exceed two percent of budgeted revenue, hardworking Oregonians get a bit of their money back to buy their kids shoes or pay for medicine.

The push to tinker with the kicker comes from a (more…)

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Productivity and benefits: The missing education links

QuickPoint!

A recent document from the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) trumpets that schools have been more effective at “controlling pay” than has the private sector. This line has already been repeated by state legislators, but it is misleading for a variety of reasons.

First, in the private sector increases in wages are a (more…)

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Pass a tax, reject an opportunity

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Multnomah County voters just approved Oregon’s only local income tax, primarily to help schools. The 1.25 percent three-year tax is on top of Oregon’s already high 9 percent state income tax. Voters clearly value education, but this new money will largely benefit the teachers’ union, not the students. Rather than help the schools in a positive way, the new tax will allow the school system to avoid doing two things it must eventually do: control spending and become accountable for learning outcomes.

First, supporters of the new tax failed to recognize (more…)

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Another wild pitch: Sports teams and economic development

QuickPoint!

Proponents of a taxpayer-supported baseball stadium in Portland argue it and a team would generate significant economic gains for the city, if not the state. Terrific! But, wait a minute, if the benefits are such a sure-thing, how come private investors aren’t lining up to invest their own money?

The reluctance of private investors to put their money where home plate is points to (more…)

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Business collects taxes, but doesn’t pay them

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

As Multnomah County voters make up their minds about the new county income tax measure, newspapers are printing letters to the editor pro and con. One misguided writer said he’s voting no because only people will be taxed, not corporations.

There is plenty wrong with Measure 26-48, but (more…)

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Zoning: It’s all about power

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Wilsonville Mayor Charlotte Lehan and Metro President David Bragdon are both complaining. Why? Because state legislator Jerry Krummel (R-Wilsonville) has introduced a bill that would expand the urban growth boundary by 520 acres immediately north of the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville. The reason for the legislation is that construction of the prison destroyed the value of nearby land for residential development, but local officials refuse to re-zone the land for industrial use. Thus, eight landowners now have property that is nearly worthless.

Lehan and Bragdon argue that the (more…)

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Be aware of choices during Hunger Awareness Week

QuickPoint!

According to a United States Department of Agriculture survey, Oregon is the hungriest state in the country. This ranking prompted Gov. Kulongoski to name April 27 through May 3 “Hunger Awareness Week.” But, there is reason to be skeptical of Oregon’s status.

To start, according to other USDA sources, in terms of (more…)

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The Mythical World of Transit-Oriented Development: Light Rail and the Orenco Neighborhood, Hillsboro, Oregon

John A. Charles, Jr.

Executive Summary

During the past decade, Portland-area planners have embraced Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as the dominant land use/transportation strategy. They assert that TOD, especially based on light rail, will reduce traffic congestion, increase transit use, improve air quality, and attract private investment.

Dozens of TODs have been constructed in the Portland region since 1990, with several winning national acclaim. Most have received public subsidies, on the assumption that the public benefits of TOD outweigh the costs. However, little is known about how transit-oriented projects actually perform once they are built, in terms of transit use and auto dependency. The purpose of this analysis—the first in a series of Portland, Oregon TOD case studies—is to begin filling in that gap by analyzing one of the most well-known TODs in the country, Orenco Station. (more…)

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Education freedom advances

QuickPoint!

The Oregon State Senate recently advanced education freedom by eliminating mandatory testing of homeschool students, and House members will consider the bill in the coming weeks. If this bill is passed into law, it will treat home education the same as private schools by not subjecting either to government intervention.

Senate Bill 761 passed 20 to 9, but there are (more…)

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Show us the leadership

QuickPoint!

With April Fool’s Day just passed, Governor Kulongoski is poised to break his pledge to make Oregon state government live within its means. The April 13 Oregonian headline reports, “Kulongoski, long against tax increase, says it appears inevitable.” The governor should keep his pledge to work on Oregon’s spending problem. That would be leadership.

The governor must hold legislators’ feet in the fire and (more…)

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Business of the City

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The Mayor of Oregon’s largest city delivered her annual State of the City address last Friday. The disconnect between her vision for economic development and the business climate reality was palpable.

Mayor Katz’ “new” economic development strategy calls for (more…)

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Great selection, low price; why discriminate against large stores?

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The Sandy, Oregon, Planning Commission held a hearing last week on a proposal to ban large retail superstores. The Eugene City Council will be looking at a similar ordinance within the next few months. Hood River has already enacted such restrictions.

Why do politicians insist on trying to (more…)

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Sell government assets for a "win/win" situation

QuickPoint!

Some assumptions concerning public policy are false. “If government doesn’t do it, nobody will” is a particularly pernicious one. This assumption fosters a tendency for government to hoard assets that could be utilized better in private hands, and to greater benefit for the public.

Raw and developed land, sports stadiums, infrastructure like sea ports and even airports may serve the (more…)

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Legislature should reject TriMet tax request

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

TriMet, Portland’s transit agency, is seeking authorization from the state legislature to raise the tax on workers that funds most of its general operations. But the primary reason for the tax increase request is: TriMet’s labor costs are too high.

Since 1994 salaries and wages have (more…)

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Remove mandates and health insurance will be more affordable

QuickPoint!

More Oregonians should be able to afford health insurance. To help achieve that goal legislators should repeal onerous mandates and regulations that price insurance out of reach for many. Removing these restrictions would allow individuals and families the opportunity to buy coverage tailored to their needs, and also lessen pressure on the Oregon Health Plan.

In a Cascade Policy Institute report (more…)

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Don’t follow Portland school district’s lead

QuickPoint!

The recent deal between the city, county and school district and teachers’ union restored 24 days to the school year, but it is not a model for other cities and school districts to emulate. The city and county’s intervention sidetracked the school board from efforts to control spending and improve education.

Much attention will focus on the failure to (more…)

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No plan(ners) required

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

A Portland newspaper editor recently implored in print, “We need a plan, people, soon.”

Why just one plan? In Portland, for example, some want tax incentives to attract business, others want more business taxes to fund our schools. Some want Major League Baseball, others want to invest in engineering schools. To planners such disparate talk sounds like (more…)

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Don’t adopt the "Daughter of 28"

QuickPoint!

Close on the heels of Measure 28’s failure Portland and Multnomah County officials have started dreaming of more creative ways to tax people, rather than live within the means of taxpayers. Specifics about the new taxes are hard to come by. There is no consensus on whom to tax or what to tax.

Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito has proposed that (more…)

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Paving the rails with gold

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Since the voter defeat of Measure 28, public officials in the Portland region have proposed numerous emergency tax plans to stave off service cuts such as shortened school years. Oddly, these same elected officials are warmly embracing the joint proposal of Metro and TriMet to spend $850 million building two new light rail lines.

According to Metro’s Environmental Impact Statement, each new trip on light rail will cost (more…)

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New approach to education can reduce achievement gap

QuickPoint!

Oregon education officials recently revealed what many have long known – the public schools have not addressed the persistent achievement gap between white and minority students. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) will request a waiver from the portion of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that requires schools to make adequate yearly progress for all students, regardless of race or income level.

The ODE is worried that schools will miss (more…)

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The fatal conceit of selective tax breaks

QuickPoint!

Oregon legislators are eager to review existing tax breaks. The thinking is, some breaks may have outlived their usefulness.

A state representative questioned, “Are there things on the books that could be limited or eliminated to find revenue to apply to other tax credits?” He noted that perhaps the legislature could (more…)

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Kitzhaber doubts power of government?

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

After holding various political offices for 22 years, former Governor John Kitzhaber recently said he sees an “apparent inability of our public institutions to deal in a timely and effective manner with the problems confronting us as a nation and as a society.” Kitzhaber called for even more citizen involvement as a way to bring people together on key public issues.

We would be headed in a positive direction if (more…)

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Measure 28: No cure for Oregon’s ailing economy

QuickPoint!

Many proponents of Measure 28 advocate it as the key to bolstering Oregon’s ailing economy. However, if higher taxes and more government spending were truly the cause of a strong economy, then Oregon would currently enjoy one of the healthiest economies in the nation.

Cascade Policy Institute president Steve Buckstein points out, “The state’s general fund budget has grown at (more…)

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For a better road system: electronic tolling

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The Oregon Road User Fee Task Force recently became the object of scorn by media pundits. Why? Because the Task Force recommended that Oregon test a Global Positioning Satellite-based system to collect tolls from motorists, using volunteer car fleets for the initial research.

Oregon roads are paid for primarily through a (more…)

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