Year: 2010

For Real Reform, Allow More Innovative Schools

Kathryn Hickok
QuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint5-12-10Kathryn.mp3]

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By Kathryn Hickok

For Real Reform, Allow More Innovative Schools

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Governor Ted Kulongoski has decided that Oregon will not reapply for a federal “Race to the Top” school innovation grant this month. Oregon’s proposal was graded seventh worst in the nation, andKulongoski said Oregon “has a lot of foundational work to do” before being “truly competitive for any Race to the Top dollars.”

To improve New York’s bid for Race to the Top funds, the New York Senate more than doubled the cap on the state’s charter schools from 200 to 460. New York’s charter school bill is reportedly unlikely to pass the State Assembly in its current form. However, New York lawmakers are realizing that if they are serious about trying to win up to $700 million in federal grant money for educational innovation, they must allow more students to attend innovative schools.

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Don’t Let School Choice Lose Ground in Oregon!

Christina Martin
QuickPoint!

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by Christina Martin

Don’t Let School Choice Lose Ground in Oregon!

Download PDF Here

During its February special session, the Oregon legislature passed a bill instructing the Oregon State Board of Education to make recommendations to the legislature this fall regarding the governance of virtual charter schools. Last month, the Board met to discuss the future of virtual education in Oregon.

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Opportunity Knocks with Redistricting

Karla Kay Edwards
Cascade Commentary

Opportunity Knocks with Redistricting

by Karla Kay Edwards

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It is obvious from the voting results of Measures 66 and 67 (and of several other recent ballot measures) that constituents in most rural counties have different ideas about taxation and the role of government than do residents of counties with a larger urban population. Many are frustrated and concerned that the voices of rural communities always will fail to be heard.

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Worried About Climate Change? Promote Free Markets!

Todd Wynn
Cascade Commentary

Worried About Climate Change? Promote Free Markets!

by Todd Wynn

Every day more and more Americans are growing skeptical of the climate change doomsday claims and plans to ration energy through cap-and-trade type proposals. Despite this, many environmentalists still claim that far-reaching government intervention is needed to achieve greater energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the threat of global warming. Although there has been no statistically significant global warming since at least 1995, the same groups often claim economic growth and lack of comprehensive environmental regulations have created a society that wastes energy and pays no regard to greenhouse gas emissions. But what if less energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions are a byproduct of limited government and economic freedom? What if environmentalists’ goals can be reached by freer markets and prosperity? Recent Cascade Policy Institute research shows that very phenomenon.

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The Downside of Measure 68

Steve Buckstein
QuickPoint!

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by Steve Buckstein

The Downside of Measure 68

At first glance, Measure 68 on this year’s Oregon Primary election ballot seems harmless enough. It would allow school districts to borrow money for capital improvements, including “land and other assets associated with acquisition, construction, improvement, remodeling, maintenance and repair.” The measure also would allow the state to borrow money and to match bonds approved by local voters.

Southern Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett worries that Measure 68 will enable the state, in effect, to max out its credit card more easily than it can now. With the state facing huge financial pressures in the next biennium, he is concerned that we may be “…one little disaster away from not having any credit rating at all.”

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Come to the Cascade Open House!

Come enjoy some free food and drinks with your favorite Cascadians! We’re having an Open House May 14th, 2010 from 4pm – 7pm at our office (4850 SW Scholls Ferry Rd, Suite 103, Portland, Oregon 97225). Call 503.242.0900 to RSVP today!

If that video didn’t convince you to go, this one will…

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Florida Steps Up Their School Choice Scholarship Program

Kathryn Hickok
QuickPoint!

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Florida Steps Up Their School Choice Scholarship Program

By Kathryn Hickok

On April 9 the Florida legislature passed a major expansion of one of the nation’s prominent school choice programs, Step Up for Students. This program provides scholarships to Florida children from low-income families to attend a private school or an out-of-district public school, whether or not their local public school is judged by the government to be “succeeding” or “failing.” (more…)

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QuickPoint! – Statewide Open Houses Promote a Water Future for Oregon

Karla Kay Edwards QuickPoint!

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by Karla Kay Edwards

Click here for a printable version of this QuickPoint!

Statewide Open Houses Promote a Water Future for Oregon

Water is an economic driver in all communities. Taking a hard look at Oregon’s water resources and today’s economic, social and ecological demands is important. Most surface waters are fully allocated in the summertime. In many areas groundwater basins face diminishing supplies.

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NEW REPORT – Economic Freedom: A No Regrets Strategy for Reducing Global Energy Consumption

Todd Wynn
Economic Freedom: A No Regrets Strategy for Reducing Global Energy Consumption

A new report from Todd Wynn of Cascade Policy Institute

Summary:

This empirical study exposes a relationship between greenhouse gas intensity, energy intensity and economic freedom. The level of a country’s economic freedom is a statistically significant and negative determinant of both energy intensity and greenhouse gas intensity. Countries with higher levels of economic freedom not only have more energy efficient and less carbon intensive economies, but over time these countries continue to decrease the amount of energy used and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of production. The merits of free markets and economic prosperity should not be overlooked as a potential method for reducing carbon emissions.

Download the Full Report

Todd talks about the report:

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States Defend Citizen’s Right Not to Purchase Health Insurance (But Not Oregon)

Now that ObamaCare is the law of the land, it’s not surprising that attention is turning to the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution, in an attempt to derail it in the courts. So far, it appears that seventeen states will join forces in a single suit against the federal government. Virginia is filing its own suit, based on the newly signed Virginia Health Care Freedom Act that protects its citizens from being forced to purchase health insurance or to participate in any health care system against their will.

The lawsuit’s main legal claim is that Congress does not have authority to require citizens to purchase a service they would not have purchased voluntarily, namely, health insurance.

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TriMet: Revenue Up, Service Down Testimony

John Charles gives testimony before the TriMet council addressing ridership, routes, and ballooning fringe benefits.

You can download a copy of his testimony here.

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Tea Party Video

As April 15 approaches and thousands of tea party activists are planning events around the country, The Heartland Institute has produced a stunning and inspiring three-minute video.

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Chicago Democrat Leads Charge to Help 22,000 Kids Get a Better Education

Kathryn Hickok
QuickPoint!

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Chicago Democrat Leads Charge to Help 22,000 Kids Get a Better Education

By Kathryn Hickok

Last month the Illinois state Senate passednew school voucher program to help students struggling in Chicago’s lowest-performing public elementary schools. The bill now must be considered by the Illinois House of Representatives.

Democrat Senator and “outspoken advocate of public education” James Meeks sponsored the voucher legislation. “By passing this bill, we’ll give 22,000 kids an opportunity to have a choice on whether or not they’ll continue in their failing school or go to another non-public school within the city of Chicago,” said Sen. Meeks.

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School Choice Makes “Cents” for Oregon’s Budget

Jacob Szeto
Cascade Commentary

School Choice Makes “Cents” for Oregon’s Budget

By Jeff W. Reed

As Oscar season winds down, Oregonians should remember their own cinematic achievement filmed and based in Oregon: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In the Oscar-winning movie, Jack Nicholson’s character acts crazy to forestall facing hard time. Oregon’s actions of late aren’t so dissimilar.

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The Diversity of Rural Oregon Communities

Karla Kay Edwards
Cascade Commentary

The Diversity of Rural Oregon Communities

by Karla Kay Edwards

The differences between Oregon’s rural and urban communities are obvious, but the diversity among rural communities often goes unrecognized. Describing rural communities involves considering both geographic and social characteristics. Geographically, Oregon is divided by the Coastal and the Cascade mountain ranges, running north and south, which create three physical regions: the coastal area, the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon. Each region includes vast tracts of federally owned land that have an impact on natural resources and economic drivers available to communities in each area. For example, in a recent economic study by Forest2Market, Inc., privately owned forestlands in Oregon contribute $382 per acre to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), versus federal forestlands’ contribution of just $67 per acre. Considering that 59% of Oregon forestlands are federally owned, federal forestland holdings have a significant impact on wealth creation and jobs in rural communities. Rural communities insufficient ability to generate wealth also hinders their ability to comply with state government mandates.

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The Climate Swindle

Todd Wynn
Cascade Commentary

By Todd Wynn

Download Full Commentary in PDF

Are you worried about your carbon footprint hurting the earth? Don’t worry. Now climate doomsayers can sleep easy at night. For a fee a carbon offset provider will gladly funnel your money into earth friendly projects aimed to reduce greenhouse gases, such as planting trees in Ecuador or supporting a wind farm in Texas. But are carbon offset providers really delivering what they claim? Studies of international carbon offset schemes have revealed examples of widespread fraud and abuse. And now, investigations into two of the most prominent carbon offset providers in the U.S. have revealed that neither of them actually offers real reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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The Climate Swindle

Todd Wynn
Summary: Carbon offsetting has spread quickly in the past few years, fueled by worries of human induced climate change. The newfound popularity of carbon offsets warrants a closer examination of their legitimacy. Studies of some carbon offset schemes have revealed examples of fraud and abuse. These examples caution against the use of offsets for regulatory compliance.

This report offers an in-depth look into one of the most prominent carbon offset marketers in the United States, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). The audit casts serious doubt on whether carbon offsets will ever be a product that can be verifiable and additional. The problems that plague the carbon offset concept will most likely never be solved, meaning that the offset mechanism will always be questionable in delivering real verifiable reductions in greenhouse gases.

 

Click here for PDF version:

2010-03-Climate_Swindle_Mirage_of_Carbon_Offsets

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Excessive Cost of the Milwaukie Light Rail Line

John A. Charles, Jr.
Cascade Commentary

By John Charles

Testimony before the Metro Council Regarding the Milwaukie Light Rail Line Resolution No. 10-4133

Metro proposes to allocate $144.8 million of flexible funding to one corridor in SE Portland  to move a handful of people who could be served just as well by Bus Rapid Transit at less than .2% of the capital cost, and the staff concludes that there is no opposition “known at this time.” Only in the Orwellian world of regional transportation decision-making could two public votes AGAINST the South/North LRT project be re-defined out of existence 12 years later.

The analytical argument against this project is actually much stronger now than it was in 1998 when it was voted down. We know more about alternatives, and about the true costs of rail. Continued rail expansion inevitably cannibalizes service elsewhere, as shown by the fact that TriMet has had a 38% increase in funding over the past five years while service has dropped by 10%.

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Founder’s Statement

Steve Buckstein
Founder’s Statement
by Steve Buckstein

The US Congress has now passed a sweeping health care “reform” bill that, even when “fixed” in the Senate, will represent much more a violation of individual liberty than an improvement in American health care.

When we founded Cascade Policy Institute in 1991 our mission was, and still is, to promote public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity. This bill threatens to set us back in all three areas:

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Health Care "Reform" a turning point

Steve Buckstein
QuickPoint!

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Health Care “Reform” a turning point
by Steve Buckstein

America’s founders had a clear vision of government’s role in the “land of the free.” Controlling large segments of the economy was not it. As the federal government moves to control virtually all health care in America, it’s up to freedom loving Americans to take a stand.

The resistance to this usurpation of power began last year with the emergence of the Tea Party movement. Millions of before now relatively uninvolved citizens got concerned about runaway government spending and deficits, and concerned about government taking over segments of our economy that it had no business doing.

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Private Scholarships: A Successful Path to High School Graduation

Kathryn Hickok
QuickPoint!

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Private Scholarships: A Successful Path to High School Graduation

By Kathryn Hickok

new study released by Cascade Policy Institute and the Foundation for Educational Choice reveals the dramatic economic and social costs of dropping out of high school in Oregon, and the long-lasting value of a helping hand extended early in a child’s life.

Since 1999 the Children’s Scholarship Fund has given over 111,000 low-income children nationwide a “hand up” in life through a quality elementary education in the private grade schools of their parents’ choice.

Here in Oregon, over 600 students have benefited from CSF scholarships, funded entirely by private donations from Oregonians and matching grants from the Children’s Scholarship Fund. CSF scholarships are a “hand up,” not a “hand-out.” The Oregon families who participate pay, on average, over half of their children’s tuition themselves, a serious commitment from families whose incomes average $33,000.

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Our Education System’s Costly Failures

Christina Martin
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Our Education System’s Costly Failures

by Christina Martin

A recent study by the Foundation for Educational Choice determined that Oregon’s high school dropouts cost the state more than $400 million each year. Dropouts are more likely to be incarcerated or to use Medicaid, and they contribute less in taxes since they earn less on average and are more likely to be unemployed or out of the workforce.

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Cascade featured on KATU

Todd Wynn of Cascade Policy Institute was featured in a recent story on KATU titled “Wind power’s dirty secret: It has a carbon footprint“. You can view the video by going here.

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Global Warming Conference Heats Up in May 2010

CHICAGO, IL USA – What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time, global warming “skeptics” were dismissed as being a fringe group of dissenters from “the overwhelming consensus” of scientific opinion. Now, their critics are admitting that the science is far from settled and that global warming is not the crisis it was once made out to be. (more…)

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Oregon’s High School Dropouts Cost State $400 Million Annually

For release March 10, 2010

Cascade Policy Institute & Foundation for Educational Choice

Contact

Christina Martin, Education Policy Analyst
Cascade Policy Institute
503-242-0900
christina@cascadepolicy.org

Paul DiPerna, Research Director
Foundation for Educational Choice
317-229-2131
paul@edchoice.org

Oregon’s High School Dropouts Cost State $400 Million Annually

by Christina Martin and Paul DiPerna

PORTLAND—Oregon’s high school dropouts are costing state taxpayers more than $400 million per year, according to a study released today by the Foundation for Educational Choice and Cascade Policy Institute. On average Oregon’s dropouts number 218,000 annually—greater than the state and federal governments’ findings—underscoring the state’s need for more productive schooling options particularly during tough budgetary and economic times.

The study, Oregon’s High School Dropouts: Examining the economic and social costs, finds that Oregon’s dropout rate is resulting in more enrollments in the state’s Medicaid program, higher incarceration rates, and lost state revenue (because of unemployment and lower taxable incomes).

“Oregonians are paying too high of a price for underperforming public schools,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice. “The enormous cost of these lost opportunities is proof that Oregonians need to upend the status quo of educational failure and try something different like parental school choice.”

Key findings of the report include:

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Land-Poor, Cash-Poor

Karla Kay Edwards QuickPoint!

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Farmers often have been land-rich and cash-poor. Today, the downturn in the real estate market has made Oregon farmers both land-poor and cash-poor; and they are feeling the pinch of what that truly means.

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Westside Commuter Rail: A Financial Train Wreck

John A. Charles, Jr.Cascade Commentary

Westside Commuter Rail: A Financial Train Wreck

By John A. Charles, Jr.

Download the pdf here

February marked the one-year anniversary of the Westside Express Service (WES), the 14.7-mile commuter rail line that runs from Wilsonville to Beaverton. While the train’s owner, TriMet, has gone to great lengths to put a positive spin on this, the truth is that WES has been a failure. The daily ridership is only half of what was projected, and taxpayers subsidize each rider by at least $45 per round trip.

At a time when TriMet faces a $27 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, we have to consider whether we can afford the luxury of a commuter train that runs almost empty.

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Renewable Energy Costs for All

Todd Wynn
QuickPoint!

Renewable Energy Costs for All
By Todd Wynn

Portland General Electric (PGE) customers may have noticed something new on their bills recently. Last month, a “renewable resource adjustment” was added to electricity bills to pay for additional renewable resources like wind power. Even if you are not enrolled in the Green Power Program, all PGE customers are forced to pay for renewable energy. According to PGE, ratepayers can thank their legislators for this added electricity cost.

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Unemployment Insurance Extensions Appeal to the Heart but Rob the Soul

Christina Martin
Cascade Commentary

Unemployment Insurance Extensions Appeal to the Heart but Rob the Soul

By Christina Martin

Download the pdf here

The federal government is likely to extend unemployment benefits with approval from both conservatives and liberals. If all federal extensions pass, Oregonians will be eligible for up to 105 weeks (about two years) of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, compared to the usual 26 weeks. Oregon’s extended benefits bill recently passed the state legislature with unanimous support by Democrats and Republicans. The U.S. Congress’s extensions, likewise, are predicted to pass with bipartisan support. Why have these extensions received such wide approval? Are they incontrovertibly good, or do these bills just feel good?

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More Red Tape for Virtual Charter Schools

Christina Martin
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More Red Tape for Virtual Charter Schools
February 24, 2010

By Christina Martin

The Oregon legislature is once again increasing the web of red tape for Oregon’s virtual charter schools via House Bill 3660. Last year, the legislature passed a two-year moratorium on virtual schools. It capped enrollment and temporarily forbade future waivers from a misguided regulation requiring half of charter school students to live in the school’s home district. The regulation limits the power of virtual education to help students everywhere.

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Speech to the Junior State of America

Christina Martin
Cascade Commentary

Speech to the Junior State of America

by Christina Martin

Cascade’s Christina Martin spoke recently to around 200 high school students about the importance of political involvement and the need for reforming our educational institutions to increase school choice. Read an edited form of her speech here:

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Oregon Politico Officially Launches

Sarah Ross
Cascade Commentary

Oregon Politico Officially Launches

By Sarah Ross

Oregon Politico, the sister news site of Cascade Policy, has officially launched.

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Klamath Restoration Agreement Makes Water Rights a Water Sport

Karla Kay Edwards
Cascade Commentary

Klamath Restoration Agreement Makes Water Rights a Water Sport

By Karla Kay Edwards

Summary: The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement signed on February 18, 2010 will critically impact the way water rights are determined in Oregon. With so many victims of the process, the one-sided adulation by the Governors of Oregon and California, as well as others present at the signing ceremony in the state capitol rotunda, is disheartening.

Click below to download the .pdf or read the entire commentary.

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Increased Costs Are Blowin’ in the Wind

Todd Wynn
Cascade Commentary

by Todd Wynn and Eric Lowe

Increased Costs Are Blowin’ in the Wind

Summary: Wind energy on the Pacific Northwest’s electricity grid has increased substantially. Often overlooked are the impacts of increasing wind generation on the reliability and affordability of electricity that very well might outweigh any of the promised environmental benefits.

Download the .pdf here, or click through the break to read the commentary.

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Tea Time at the Capitol

Steve Buckstein
QuickPoint!

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Tea Time at the Capitol

February 17, 2010

By Steve Buckstein

Monday was President’s Day. Schools were out, and many people had the day off. It was the perfect day for Oregonians upset with their state government to come to Salem and let their voices be heard.

And heard they were. Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works held back-to-back rallies on the steps of the State Capitol that together saw hundreds of activists and concerned citizens march, hold signs and listen to a bevy of speakers.

The theme was best summed up as “Taxed Enough Already” – the acronym for the emerging tea party movement here and around the country. Oregonians upset with the legislature’s tax and spending increases showed up to tell their lawmakers that enough is enough. Many of the lawmakers who agree with them came to the Capitol steps to side with the demonstrators.

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Testimony on HB 3614 in favor of prioritizing Core Functions of State Government

Steve Buckstein
Cascade Commentary

Listen to the full testimony here. The bill testimony begins at 1:20:30. Buckstein testimony begins at 1:56:17.

Before the House Consumer Protection and Government Accountability Committee in favor of prioritizing Core Functions of State Government

By Steve Buckstein

Good afternoon, Chair Holvey 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 center based in Portland.

I’m here to lend my support to the idea that Oregonians would be well-served by our state government going through the process of determining what the Core Functions of government should be.

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15 Years of Audits Reveal a Pattern of Fiscal Irresponsibility at the Oregon Commission for the Blind

Jacob Szeto
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15 Years of Audits Reveal a Pattern of Fiscal Irresponsibility at the Oregon Commission for the BlindFebruary 10, 2010

By Jacob Szeto

A Secretary of State Audits Division audit report questions if $1.46 million used by the Oregon Commission for the Blind was spent prudently or lawfully.

The audit was initiated in 2007 after the Secretary of State received allegations of mismanaged operations and misused funds. After substantiating several allegations, it was found that problems identified in several previous audits were still occurring. According to the report, $61,000 was used for “purposes that did not always benefit clients and, in some cases, were not allowed by federal regulations.” Examples include $12,000 for a trip to the San Juan Islands.

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Testimony to the House Education Committee on HB 3660

Christina Martin Cascade Commentary

Testimony to the House Education Committee on HB 3660

February 3, 2010

By Christina Martin

Good afternoon, Chair Gelser and Representatives. My name is Christina Martin. I am here on behalf of Cascade Policy Institute. Cascade is a strong advocate of increasing educational options for families. Online education is one of those important options.

Some parents have more options than others. Wealthy parents can choose online education regardless of what you do here today. But ordinary parents’ choices may rest on what you decide here. Currently, some can choose ORVA (Oregon Virtual Academy), while others cannot get permission from their district to make that choice. Parents can choose ORCA (Oregon Connections Academy), provided that ORCA is within its cap. But why should a parent have to settle for anything but her first choice?

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The Citizen Lawsuit Racket

Karla Kay Edwards QuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint 2-03-10.mp3]

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Throughout the Northwest, even a small timber sale is rarely completed without first being challenged by a citizen’s lawsuit filed by an environmental organization. These lawsuits, with legal fees from both sides typically paid by taxpayers, have stifled the management of our public lands. Billions of private and tax dollars are spent by private entities and government agencies to defend sound management decisions that may or may not have been tripped up by technical errors or missed deadlines.

Eric Hoffer once said, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business and then a racket.” Citizen lawsuits are the critical tool that has allowed the environmental movement to become a racket. According to research done by Budd-Falen Law Offices from 2003-2007, more than $4.7 billion were paid to environmental law firms by federal agencies using our tax dollars.

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Testimony on HB 3611 regarding individual health insurance

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Before the House Committee on Health Care in favor of making individually purchased health insurance tax deductible

February 3, 2010

Good afternoon, Chair Greenlick 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.

Why are my health insurance premiums tax deductible if paid by my employer, but fully taxable if I pay them myself, which I do by the way. This dichotomy has been part of our nation’s tax code for far too long.

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Testimony in opposition to HJR 100 regarding health care as a fundamental right

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Testimony before the House Committee on Health Care

February 4, 2010

Chair Greenlick and members of the Committee, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based research center that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

On a philosophical level, I object to defining health care as a right, or more precisely, what philosophers call a “positive” right. This country was founded on the belief that government cannot create rights; it can at best protect our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These so-called “negative” rights don’t put demands on anyone else; except the demand that no one violate them.

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After Raising Taxes, Oregonians Should Reject Moves to Gut the Kicker Law

Todd WynnCascade Commentary

Click here to read the full report in PDF format

Summary: Governor Kulongoski and others propose to transfer even more money from the private sector to government coffers through what is becoming known as “kicker reform.” As an appointed taxpayer advocate on the Governor’s Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring, I have a different view of the kicker and its effect on budget stability.

The voters have spoken and agreed with legislative leaders that the “rich” and corporations should pay more taxes through Measures 66 and 67. Now, Governor Ted Kulongoski and others are turning their attention to transferring even more money from the private sector to government coffers through what is becoming known as “kicker reform.” As an appointed taxpayer advocate on the Governor’s Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring, I have a different view of the kicker and its effect on budget stability.

The Task Force found, and I agree, that establishing more reliable state income forecasting and more prudent budgeting are worthy goals. I do not agree, however, that the state is the best repository for ending balances under a proposed new forecasting method. That money rightfully belongs to the individuals and corporations who earned it.

The Task Force Proposal basically requires the Governor to develop a point estimate for General Fund revenue in each biennium, and then determine a range of roughly six percent above and below that point estimate. This would be an improvement over the current point-estimate-only approach, which is almost always wrong.

The problem lies in the Proposal’s requirement that only revenue above the top of the forecast range be returned to taxpayers in the form of kicker checks. This will have the practical effect of eliminating most kicker refunds that Oregonians have come to expect when state revenue exceeds estimates by more than two percent.

The Proposal also requires that revenue above the point estimate, but below the top of the forecast range, be placed in a rainy day fund of up to ten percent of the General Fund. The intent is to grow a more substantial fund that can help the state deal with recessions like the one we are in right now.

I will tell the legislature that locking this entire Proposal into the Constitution will simply make it easier for the state to avoid exercising the kind of real fiscal discipline that Oregonians should expect. The effect would be to permanently transfer billions of dollars from the private to the public sector into the foreseeable future. I also will point out that, in my opinion, it will be relatively easy for opponents to derail the effort by telling voters that it is simply an attempt to “steal our kicker.”

How to build a rainy day fund without “stealing the kicker”

In fact, the Proposal is built on a fallacy. Its supporters assume that the kicker somehow has prevented the state from building a substantial rainy day fund, when in reality there has been no legal prohibition against lawmakers budgeting for less spending than the point estimate revenue forecasts would allow.

If, for example, the revenue estimate for a biennium is $15 billion, the legislature is free to budget spending of $14 billion, and budget one billion dollars toward the rainy day fund. They never do this, not because it’s legally prohibited, but because the political pressure to spend every dime is so strong.

Under the Task Force Proposal, however, if the point estimate is $15 billion and the top of the range is $16 billion, the legislature can budget and spend $15 billion and must save the additional billion dollars. The effect is to transfer one billion dollars from the private to the public sector and effectively to grow government faster than the people have allowed it to grow under the current kicker law.

My recommendation is to accept the part of the Proposal that improves state revenue forecasting, but reject the part that, over time, would transfer billions of dollars from the private to the public sector.

If legislators wish to grow a substantial rainy day fund, they can ask voters to change the Oregon Constitution to require that they can only budget and spend up to the low end of the forecast range, and save everything else up to the point estimate until the rainy day fund has reached some predetermined level. This would leave the kicker law intact, restrain the growth of government, and grow the rainy day fund all at the same time. It would be reform that many taxpayers could enthusiastically support.


Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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The Nanny State Attack on BPA: Oregon and Beyond

Angela Logomasini

by Angela Logomasini, Ph.D.


Click here to read the full report in PDF format

 

 Executive Summary

During the past several years, a chemical used to make baby bottles and other plastic products has been making headlines. Activists suggest it can put infants at risk. Groups like the Washington Toxics Coalition claim that this chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA), is “toxic” and could cause cancer and a number of other ailments.

The Children’s Safe Products Act of 2009 (HB 2367) was introduced in the Oregon House of Representatives in 2009.[1] It would have regulated chemicals in children’s toys, including BPA. But activists like the Oregon Environmental Council and Environment Oregon are also pushing legislation that focuses on BPA in food products and containers, such as baby bottles and canned goods-proposals likely to appear on the 2010 legislative agenda.[2]

WHAT IS BPA? Bisphenol A is a chemical intermediary used in the manufacturing of certain products, including polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. These plastics are used in a variety of products: baby bottles, five-gallon water jugs used in water coolers, medical equipment, sports safety equipment, cell phones and other consumer electronics, household appliances, and many other products. The resins are used for industrial flooring, adhesives, primers, coatings, and computer components. Its applications for food packaging and containers, particularly uses for water cooler jugs, canned foods, and baby bottles, have been the focus of much debate. (more…)

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Business Energy Tax Credit

Todd Wynn
QuickPoint!

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The Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) has come under fire from Oregonians as the costs of the program have ballooned beyond anyone’s expectations. The program, originally designed to jumpstart the renewable energy industry, hands out millions in tax breaks to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Although there is a push for reforming and limiting the program, some important lessons learned from the BETC can be applied to other sectors of the Oregon economy.

On one hand, the BETC program has been enormously successful. Due to the clear benefit of reducing state tax liabilities, the program has grown substantially over time, totaling more than $130 million in 2009 alone. This led to an expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the state and even to modest job growth in this sector. This should be an example of how reducing taxes can increase economic growth and create jobs. (more…)

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Taking with One Hand, Pointing Fingers with the Other

Christina MartinQuickPoint!

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Around the nation, many states are taking interest-free long-term loans from the federal government to extend unemployment insurance payments. Oregon is not in that position because state law requires its payroll tax rate to adjust automatically to support a healthy balance in its unemployment insurance trust fund.

Many Oregon legislators have taken notice of the federal loans, opining that it is unfair that “responsible” states like Oregon should have to fund less responsible states which did not save enough in their unemployment trust. Perhaps even worse, the federal government is giving states an incentive to continue to keep irresponsibly small savings for unemployment insurance and other programs. (more…)

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The Real Winners if Measures 66 & 67 Pass

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

One of the most important back stories about the current Measure 66 and 67 campaign is how powerful public employee unions have become in Oregon and many other states. Reason magazine features a great article about this here.

And even the long-time liberal Speaker of the California House and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is speaking out: (more…)

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Virtual Ping Pong

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

 

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Summary: Instead of blocking innovation in education, the Oregon Legislature should ensure that students throughout Oregon have the option of attending online charter schools. It should remove the cap on virtual charter schools, revoke any teacher or administrator certification requirements, and allow parents from any district to enroll in virtual charter schools without having to get their local district’s permission. (more…)

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“Visit but don’t stay” turns into “Come and pay more”

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

[audio:QuickPoint 1-13-10.mp3]

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The fates of tax Measures 66 and 67 are now in the hands of Oregon voters. Part of the campaign has revolved around the assertion by the “Yes” side that Oregon charges corporations too little to do business here.

Among its other features, Measure 67 will increase the fee to incorporate most businesses from $50 to $100. But there is an exception. If the business is already incorporated in another state, then its owners must pay, not $100, but $275 for the privilege of transacting business in Oregon. (more…)

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Oregon.gov Publishes State Workers’ Salaries

Jacob Szeto

 

PRESS RELEASE
CONTACT: Jacob Szeto

In an effort to meet requirements for a transparency website created by House Bill 2500, the Department of Administrative Services has compiled and made available state workers’ salaries.

The data provided includes approximately 32,620 state workers’ salaries. Not included are employees of the Oregon University System, Oregon State Treasurer, and semi-independent agencies, temporary employees, or records protected by the courts.

Of the top three individual earners, the top two are from the Department of Human Services. Both DHS workers are classified as Principle Executives and earn $242,004 and $231,996. The third top earner, from the Department of Corrections, is classified as a Clinical Director and earns $229,332. (more…)

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111,000 Reasons for Hope

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!

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Are you dismayed by the high school graduation rates in so many major cities in the U.S.? If you could do something to help lower-income kids graduate from high school on time, would you do it?

Since 1999 the Children’s Scholarship Fund has helped over 111,000 children nationwide to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice. Studies of CSF partner programs around the country show the difference educational opportunity has made in these children’s lives, including raising their chances of high school graduation. (more…)

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Ending Highway Gridlock in Portland

randall_pozdena

by Randall Pozdena, Ph.D.

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The Portland region is rated the 24th most congested metropolitan area in the country, but it does not have to be. Policymakers in Portland have focused on so-called “smart-growth” policies, limiting the geographic extent of development and developing light rail and streetcar infrastructure, while overlooking lower-cost, efficient and environmentally beneficial transit and roadway capacity solutions. In this report, Dr. Randall Pozdena presents the fundamental problems with the way Portland addresses roadway capacity issues, explains why systemic reform is needed, and proposes real recommendations for getting there.

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Oregon Economists Expand on the Negative Effects of Measure 66 and 67 Tax Increases

Steve Buckstein

Cascade Policy Institute just released a major economic study which uses two different methods to analyze the impact that the higher tax rates of Measures 66 and 67 will have on Oregon’s economy if approved by voters on January 26. Written by two prominent Oregon economists, Drs. Randall Pozdena and Eric Fruits, the study concludes that:

  • Preliminary estimates made last June by Drs. William Conerly and Randall Pozdena of 70,000 jobs lost over time are entirely plausible and may even be conservative.

The study measures the likely economic impacts of the measures in these two ways: (more…)

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