For immediate release, March 19, 2007
Cascade Policy Institute released a report today calling for a new management strategy on the Elliott State Forest, including the possible sale to private parties. The study, entitled “Another Option for School Funding: Selling the Elliott State Forest,” was authored by Cascade President John A. Charles, Jr. (more…)
School funding has become one of the most intractable policy issues of the past 15 years. As each session of the Oregon legislature convenes, political leaders vow to bring financial stability to Oregon’s K-12 system, but it never happens.
One positive step that could be taken would be to sell the Elliott State Forest and place the proceeds in the Common School Fund (CSF) endowment. The Elliott, potentially worth $1 billion or more on the open market, is currently earning about 3% annual return on asset value (depending on assumptions), and state managers have no realistic plan for increasing returns. Selling the forest and placing the revenue in the CSF would likely result in annual returns in excess of 8% or more. This would generate an additional $40-$60 million annually for schools. (more…)
Ending Oregon’s War on the Poor
10 Strategies for Reducing Economic Barriers
Cascade Policy Institute
Legislative Leadership Forum
Presented in HR 50, State Capitol
Salem, Oregon noon-1pm
March 16, 2007
Oregon is often seen as a “progressive” state. But many of the state’s policies make it unnecessarily difficult for the lowest-income members of society to gain a foothold on the economic ladder.
In this legislative briefing, Cascade Policy Institute explores 10 simple ways to lower the tax and regulatory burdens on the poor. (more…)
One of the governor’s top priorities is SB 373, a bill mandating that most electric utilities in Oregon derive at least 25% of their power from wind, solar, wave, geothermal and/or biomass energy by 2025. Since those sources currently provide only 2.4% of Oregon’s electricity, that’s a significant increase.
Unfortunately, the governor seems to be ignoring the (more…)
The legislative debate on whether to finance a rainy day fund by ending the corporate kicker, whether forever or just this year, is complex. Proponents of ending the kicker claim that economists of all stripes agree that the corporate kicker holds no economic benefit for the state.
Noted Oregon economist and Cascade Policy Institute academic advisor Randall Pozdena recently responded to one maker of that claim, Senator Ryan Deckert. Below, with his permission, is Dr. Pozdena’s email message:
From: Randall Pozdena
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 12:37 PM
To: Senator Ryan Deckert
Subject: Economists DO NOT AGREE about elimination of the corporate kicker.
Dear Senator Deckert: (more…)
Virtually everyone agrees that the state of Oregon needs a rainy day fund; they just disagree on how to finance it. Last year voters rejected a rainy day fund coupled with a state spending limit. Now, even though state general fund revenue is expected to be 20 percent higher than last biennium, legislative leaders want corporations to give up this year’s kicker refund to build the fund.
Major business groups endorsed that idea, but the increase in the corporate minimum tax that comes along with it is causing (more…)
There’s no one right or wrong way to hold an election in a democracy. Three times since 1996 Oregon voters have approved the so-called “double majority rule” for local property tax measures in other than general elections. Basically, the rule requires that for a tax measure to pass at least half of all eligible voters must vote, and half of those voting must vote Yes.
In my testimony* before a Senate committee against moves to eliminate the double majority rule, I renamed it the “25 percent rule” because what it really does is require that at least 25 percent of all eligible voters approve a tax increase on everyone else (one-half of all eligible voters showing up multiplied by one-half of those voting Yes = 25 percent).
The Majority Leader of the Oregon House testified before me at the same hearing. In his view, the double majority rule has created a number of “victims,” namely (more…)
The Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan free-market think tank, would like to present information on the economic impacts of increasing health insurance mandates. This question is focused not only the economic consequences, but also on the larger question facing policymakers: are we seeking universal health insurance, or expansive benefit coverage for the few?
- Insurance by definition is designed to provide security against unpredictable risks that a group of individuals share and pay premiums for in the event such a risk may occur. The principles of insurance include that risks covered are unpredictable and unintentional. Insurance is not an effective mechanism to provide maximum coverage to all for every foreseeable event. When predictable and regular costs are billed to insurance, in addition to occurrences for those experiencing an unpredictable risk, the cost of insurance increases — that is, more funds are needed to cover both risks and predicted events. In this case, health insurance in fact appears more as a “health benefits package”.
Before the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee
on deleting the double majority voting requirement from certain property tax elections
Good morning Chair Deckert and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank.
There’s no one right way or wrong way to hold an election in a democracy. Clearly, some limitations on pure majority rule are both acceptable and appropriate under our form of government. In 1996 Oregon voters approved a Constitutional amendment that requires a (more…)
Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced on Monday that he has joined 4 other governors in signing the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative. The stated goal of the Initiative is to “collaborate in identifying, evaluating and implementing ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
As is typically the case with such pronouncements, none of the governors has an actual (more…)
Cascade has researched, written and testified about what’s wrong with prevailing wage laws for a long time. Basically, these laws require that higher than market wages be paid to workers on “public works” projects such as roads, schools, courthouses, etc.
Supporters of Oregon’s prevailing wage laws, primairly trade unions, defend them by claiming that the prevailing wage is really just the market wage for a given skill in a given region of the state. The wage rates are set after a compulsory survey is returned to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries stating wages paid by the responding construction firms.
Now, a bill before the Legislature seeks to exempt certain projects, primarily the construction of low-income housing units. Both agencies commissioning such projects and trade unions testified in favor of this exemption. What isn’t clear is why (more…)
Forty-three years after President Johnson declared the War on Poverty, Americans are questioning the effective-ness of government welfare dollars. Evidence-based policymaking seeks to bridge the gap between policy makers and social scientists in finding solutions to poverty that are effective in the real world. (more…)
Before the House Business and Labor Committee
on certain exemptions from prevailing wage laws
Good afternoon Chair Schaufler and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a public policy research organization based in Portland.
Before the Senate Business, Transportation and Workforce Development Committee
on the establishment of signature research centers
Good afternoon Chair Metsger and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a public policy research organization based in Portland.
As Thomas Sowell once wrote, “What is politically defined as economic ‘planning’ is the forcible superseding of other people’s plans by government officials.” The city of San Francisco is a case in point. If Mayor Gavin Newsom wanted San Francisco to benefit from a robust and inexpensive wireless market, he would abandon TechConnect and devote his energy to the removal of any existing barriers to competition. (more…)
Oregon’s two U.S. Senators spoke on a wide range of issues at a Portland Business Journal breakfast on Monday. Health care reform took up much of the time.
On Monday, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman signed the nation’s first universal school voucher law. The program will allow nearly every family in the state to have a choice in their child’s education, fulfilling Milton Friedman’s vision that he first articulated in 1955.
The new law will provide nearly every Utah parent with (more…)
Speculation about “peak oil” is an intellectual fad that has been fashionable at various times throughout the past 120 years. Recently it has seized the spotlight again, and the Portland Peak Oil Task Force Report states that, “many experts predict global oil production will peak within five years, and few anticipate a peak later than 2020.”
This forecast is likely to be wrong, just as all previous forecasts of (more…)
Oregon currently has 70 public charter schools which provide for some diversity in the often too regimented public school system. A law passed in 2005 recognizes the value of allowing new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system, yet one provision is hobbling this clear legislative intent.
The law requires that at least half of all students enrolled in an online charter school must live within the school district that charters that school. A bill has been introduced in this legislative session with the sole purpose of removing that artificial barrier to Internet learning. I testified* before the House Education Innovation Subcommittee on February 6th and seemed to get some traction for my position that such a restriction is based on similar fears that the nineteenth century English Luddites had about losing their textile jobs to the new steam powered looms. Today, public school teachers are afraid of losing their jobs if too many students figure out ways to learn online.
The only witness testifying to keep the 50 percent residency rule was, no surprise, a representative of Oregon’s largest teachers union. We’ll be watching this situation closely to see whether Oregon legislators are more concerned about helping kids learn, or about protecting public employee jobs.
*Listen to the entire hearing. My testimony begins at 57:32 into the hearing, followed by some interesting questions from committee members and my responses.
- Tobacco taxes present a moral hazard. By using this as a finance measure, legislators are clearly stating that they want Oregonians to buy as many cigarettes as possible.
- The primary effect of Oregon’s land-use regulatory system (especially the use of UGBs and rural downzoning) is to create various real estate cartels. By making buildable land scarce where it would otherwise be plentiful, land-use regulation drives up land prices far above market value.
- The number of claims filed under M 37 indicates a vast, pent-up demand for alternative uses to land in Oregon. This demonstrates what should have been obvious decades ago, namely that Oregon planners are not prescient enough to know which uses should go where.
Before the House Education Innovation Subcommittee
in favor of removing restrictions on public charter schools offering online courses
By Steve Buckstein
February 6, 2007
Good afternoon, Chair Komp and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a public policy research organization based in Portland.
As you know, one section of public charter school law ORS 338 requires 50 percent of online charter school students to (more…)
Oregon’s charter school law requires 50 percent of online charter school students to live within the district that charters that school. Why should the state of Oregon impose such an artificial barrier on the power of the Internet to help kids learn?
New York Times science writer Andrew Revkin spoke in Portland on January 17th as the kick-off speaker in Illahee’s 2007 lecture series, Money Talks: Wealth, Politics and the Environment. According to the sponsors, the premise for the lecture series is that:
“Why do free markets and political democracy struggle to provide the mix of economic well being, equity, and environmental amenities that most people desire?”
In fact, free markets do a pretty remarkable job of providing these very things, but a Portland-based environmental group wouldn’t last long admitting that. (more…)
Preserving Farmland Without Farmers
Since 1969, Oregon has pursued a stated policy objective of preserving farmland. Oregonians have paid dearly for this commitment. Rural landowners have lost important property rights and seen their land values plummet as a result. Housing costs are unnecessarily high across the state due to the artificially high prices for developed and buildable land.
The state has endured three decades of fierce battles over (more…)
The Federal Highway Administration has apparently reached its limit with Portland’s fantasy transportation planning. In comments filed recently on Metro’s so-called “Regional Transportation Plan”, the federal government noted that, “it’s difficult to find the transportation focus” in the plan.
Many motorists stuck in our worsening traffic would agree. Metro’s plan places little emphasis on (more…)
Presented to a Joint Hearing of the House Committee on Health Care and the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Public Affairs
By Steve Buckstein
January 26, 2007
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, Madam Chair, and Committee members.
My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a public policy research organization headquartered in Portland.
Governor Kulongoski wants the state to offer free or highly subsidized health insurance to all uninsured kids in Oregon by significantly increasing the cigarette tax. His “Health Kids Program” passed out of a House committee on a party line vote Friday and now goes to the Revenue Committee.
This, despite my testimony* listing several problems with the concept, including the concern that we would be taxing a group that has less income, less education, less employment and less health insurance than the average Oregonian.
Of course, smokers are also a relatively powerless minority, so they’re an easy target for those wanting to impose the next step in their vision of universal health insurance. We’ll have to see how this morality play plays out.
*Listen to the entire hearing. My testimony begins at 26:30.
Why are your health insurance premiums tax deductible if paid by your employer, but fully taxable if you pay them yourself? This dichotomy has been part of our nation’s tax code for far too long. Now, President Bush is proposing to change it.
The Bush proposal, if enacted by Congress, would allow a federal tax deduction of $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for families who purchase health insurance. Those same limits would apply to (more…)
Carbon trading programs have recently been implemented in Europe, and proposals for other regional schemes have been discussed in other jurisdictions. Carbon trading is grounded in sound theory, yet it is subject to numerous implementation problems. Market-based carbon trading programs, while providing some level of economic efficiency, suffer from a number of disadvantages compared to other carbon-reduction schemes. The European experience to date provides an excellent opportunity to investigate the costs and benefits of climate policy and establish whether or not Oregon should (more…)
Testimony before the Portland City Council
January 18, 2007
I’m Steve Buckstein, Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank.
Whether Oregon is a high tax state or a low tax state for business, everyone understands that it’s more expensive to do business in Portland than it is in the rest of the state because of the Business License Fee.
This week TriMet began construction on its next light-rail project which will shut down the Portland transit mall for two years while tracks are laid from Union Station to Portland State University. This is viewed as a great leap forward by government planners, but it’s a step backwards for the rest of us.
The current transit mall is highly (more…)
An influential group of business and political leaders just completed their fifth annual Oregon Leadership Summit last week. Those in attendance agreed that sustainability should be the hallmark of Oregon’s economic future. Last year the rallying cry was about improving public education, but this year the group seemed to have little new to say about how to improve Oregon’s education system.
In another one of its hyper-ventilating editorials on global warming, The Oregonian today criticized the Bush administration. According to the Portland daily, the administration has refused to require the auto and trucking industries to curtail “the greenhouse gas emissions that an overwhelming number of scientists assert are the major cause of global warming.”