Month: May 2011

Rural Oregon Is Tired of Being Ignored

A statistic commonly used to highlight the economic hardship Oregonians bear is that Oregonians on average earn 91 cents to every dollar of average earned income nationwide. But that story is even more dramatic for rural Oregonians, who earn a mere 75 cents on the dollar when compared to personal income nationally. Yet, the Oregon legislature has done nothing significant to begin to change this dire situation, despite the fact that bills have been introduced that could help rural economies.

 

The few economic stimulus bills that have worked their way through the system are quite limited and will benefit urban areas far more than rural areas. Bills that could have an immediate and direct benefit to rural areas have been essentially ignored, like bills to allow more water withdrawal from the Columbia River, better management of our state forests, or a pilot project to privatize some management functions of our state parks. Instead of moving these important ideas forward, we have seen the persistent movement of ideas which continue to handicap already depressed economies, like increasing marine reserves or establishing additional unnecessary government imposed natural resource protection programs.

 

Rural Oregon is tired of either being completely ignored by the legislature or told that eco-tourism is the beacon of hope and we should be thrilled with the seasonal minimum wage jobs that have replaced living wage jobs once provided by a thriving renewable natural resource industry.

 

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KPOJ podcast of Mark Zusman of WW talking about Oregon Capitol News

Click on Listen (to the right) to hear Carl Wolfson talk to Mark Zusman, editor of Willamette Week, about WW’s story on Oregon Capitol News.

To listen to all of Carl Wolfson’s recent shows, click here.

To read the Willamette Week article, click here.

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Arizona’s Empowering Education Savings Accounts: An Example for Oregon

Leading by example, Arizona’s government recently passed a bill creating Arizona Empowerment Accounts. Under the new program, if a child with special needs leaves his or her traditional public school, a portion of the state funding that would have gone toward educating that student will go into an education savings account for that student. The money then can pay for other educational options: private school tuition, online courses, tutoring or homeschool curriculum. The money left when the child finishes high school can be used for college within four years of high school graduation.

This program harnesses the benefits of both vouchers and savings accounts. Vouchers have been shown by gold standard social science studies to improve educational outcomes for students who receive vouchers and even for those who remain behind in regular public schools. Nine out of the ten random assignment empirical studies found that vouchers improve student outcomes; one found no impact. 19 out of 18 studies found that vouchers positively impacted regular public schools; only one found no impact.

Vouchers help give kids the intellectual background to better succeed in life, while the savings function of the program will also likely increase students’ financial ability to attend college. Research has shown that having economic assets substantially increases kids’ educational outcomes and likelihood to attend college. Of children who expect to one day graduate from a four-year college, those with savings accounts are six times more likely to attend college by the time they are 23.

Educational savings accounts will empower families to choose the type of education that will best serve their kids, leading to better outcomes for students. Oregon’s legislators should take note and bring such great opportunities to our state.

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You’re teaching my child what?

Join U-Choose exploring public school and private education. Speakers will present information on degradation of curriculum, sex education, and political correctness.  Cost of public education will also be addressed, along with controversies in Portland and Tigard Tualatin and Lake Oswego School Districts.

 

Featured Topics/Speakers:

 

§         “Dumbing Down” of America’s Youth – Dr. Chana Cox, Retired Faculty, Lewis and Clark College

 

§         Sex “Hyper” Education Indoctrination – Suzanne Gallagher, Business Owner, Past President Eagle Forum Oregon

 

§         Education Spending in Oregon and Nationally – Christina Martin, Policy Analyst, Cascade Policy Institute

 

 

You will not want to miss this lively event!

 

Come share your views and experiences during U-Talk.  Children, teens, adults welcome.

 

When: Thursday June 2, 6:30pm- 9:00pm

 

Where:         Tigard Chamber of Commerce

12345 SW Main Street

Tigard, OR

 

If you are interested in learning more about this event, contact Debra at debrauchoose@gmail.com.

 

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Replace “Buy Local” Laws with the Laws of Economics

In the Great Depression many Americans thought they would be better off if they only bought American products. Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930. It raised import duties to protect American businesses and farmers, becoming a symbol of “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies designed to improve one country’s lot at the expense of others. Of course, those “others” retaliated in kind, resulting in everyone becoming worse off as trade declined.

 

Trade is almost always beneficial because of the economic law of comparative advantage, which says that any two countries, states or localities can both benefit from trade when they have different relative costs for producing the same goods. Even if one place could produce all goods more efficiently (which is virtually never the case), it still can gain by trading with less-efficient places as long as they have different relative efficiencies.

 

Today, many Americans again believe that globalization and free trade are “stealing” American jobs and harming American small businesses and consumers. This has given rise to a new movement called Buy Local First. Its proponents argue that we will all be better off if we simply shop at local stores and buy locally made products. While there can be good reasons to prefer local merchants, imposing “buy local” ordinances and laws surely will end up harming most of us because consumers will be forced to pay extra money for things they could purchase less expensively from elsewhere.

 

One particularly instructive aspect of localism is the purchase of food. Purchasing all our food locally may benefit local farmers, but we forget that:

 

“Practically all the food which has become an integral part of our culture originated someplace else. Archeological evidence suggests that sheep were first domesticated in what is now Iraq; chickens, in Pakistan; cattle, in Greece and Anatolia. The Egyptians were among the earliest people to domesticate wheat. Apples are considered about as wholesomely American as anything can be, but the apple…seems to have come from central Asia. Pears and grapes are from central Asia, too. Oranges, peaches, apricots and Japanese plums, from China. Bananas, from India or Malaysia. Pineapples, from Brazil or Paraguay. Cherries, from northern Europe.”*

 

What would have happened if localists had imposed trade restrictions on food before we had chickens, cattle and apples? We have them now, they might say, but what other products won’t we have in the future if trade is restricted now?

The latest evidence that too many of us don’t understand the benefits of trade comes from the Oregon legislature, where the House recently passed, and the Senate likely will pass, HB 3000, the Buy Oregon First bill. It would allow state agencies to pay at least 10 percent more for goods fabricated or processed or services performed entirely within the state. Governor John Kitzhaber issued a press release stating that “this bill will help Oregon businesses by encouraging the development and growth of our local supply chains, which will help create local jobs and revitalize our state’s economy.”

Economists have exposed the fallacies of such thinking over the centuries. Henry George may have said it best in 1886 when he wrote:

 

“If to prevent trade were to stimulate industry and promote prosperity, then the localities where he was most isolated would show the first advances of man. The natural protection to home industry afforded by rugged mountain-chains, by burning deserts, or by seas too wide and tempestuous for…the early mariner, would have given us the first glimmerings of civilization and shown its most rapid growth. But, in fact, it is where trade could be best carried on that we find wealth first accumulating and civilization beginning. It is on accessible harbors, by navigable rivers and much traveled highways that we find cities arising and the arts and sciences developing.”**

 

Here in Oregon, we should recognize that Portland was located on two navigable rivers for a reason. Early settlers knew that having access to world markets was good. When people freely choose to trade with one another, consumers have access to more products at better prices, and workers have more job opportunities.

 

Adam Smith wrote in “The Wealth of Nations in 1776”, “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production, and the interest of the producers ought to be attended to only in so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”

 

Journalist James Glassman says of the Smith quote above, “That is a great lesson for all policymakers to bear in mind. Ask, does this policy help consumers? Free trade allows consumers to buy a cornucopia of higher quality goods from other countries at lower prices than they would pay if they were restricted to buying homemade goods. Trade is obviously a huge benefit for consumers….And, says Adam Smith, what is better for consumers is always better for an economy….It is indeed true that some producers are hurt by free trade. And we can expect producers−such as textile industries and their employees and tomato growers−to kick and scream over free trade. Fine. But consumers…benefit mightily.”***

 

Oregon legislators are desperate to create jobs, but any jobs created from the Buy Oregon First bill almost certainly will be offset by lost jobs and lost opportunities in the state as government agencies unnessesarily pay more for some products, thus having less to spend on others. While these choices may benefit some Oregon producers, they will almost certainly harm Oregon consumers in general.

 

Rather than enshrine Buy Local First into law, we should educate Oregonians about more time-tested laws: the laws of economics.

_______________________________________________

*Jim Powell, “How markets nurtured our civilization,” 1999.
** Henry George, “Protection or Free Trade,” 1886.
*** James K. Glassman, “The Blessings of Free Trade,” Cato Institute, May 1, 1998.
 

 

 

 

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Testimony on Renewable Energy credits

John Charles testified on HB 3571, regarding renewable energy credits, before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on May 12, 2011.

Click here to listen.  John starts at 1:31

 

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Testimony on Bottle Bill expansion

John testified against the Bottle Bill Expansion, HB 3145, before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on May 17, 2011.

Click here to listen.  John starts at 1:41

 

 

 

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TriMet is violating its Full Funding Grant Agreement with the federal government for MAX Green Line

A letter sent yesterday to the regional administrator of the Federal Transit Administration by Cascade Policy Institute President John A. Charles, Jr. claims that TriMet is violating Sections 2(d) and 12(b) of its Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the federal government on its South Corridor I-205/Portland Mall light rail project.
According to Charles, TriMet’s Green Line service is 33% below what the agency originally planned for, yet the FFGA “requires the transit agency to successfully operate the light rail line and the rest of the transit system after the project opens for revenue service.”

TriMet has repeatedly claimed that the reductions of service on the Green Line and throughout the entire system during the past two years are the result of declining revenues caused by the recession. However, Charles points out that since TriMet’s payroll tax rate was first increased by the legislature in 2003 (and implemented in 2005), TriMet’s annual payroll tax revenues have increased by 34% and total general fund dollars by 44% (inclusive of revenue expected in the draft FY 12 budget).

Moreover, during the 2005-2010 period, TriMet took in $60.3 million in new tax revenue but spent only $13.9 million on operation of the Green Line, in violation of its contract with the FTA.  The Green Line was subsidized with $345.4 million in federal capital funds.

Charles requests that the FTA take steps to enforce the terms of the contract by requiring that TriMet operate the Green Line at 100% of the originally planned service levels, “or pay back one-third of the total federal grant funding used for capital construction.”

Cascade is also asking that “until one of these actions takes place, FTAwithhold all capital funding for future TriMet rail projects, including but not limited to the $1.5 billion Milwaukie light rail line and the $932 million rail extension to Vancouver, WA.”

Click here to read the full letter to FTA.

 

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Testimony in opposition to SB 909

Before the Joint Education subcommittee of Ways & Means
Regarding establishing an Oregon Education Investment Board to oversee a unified public education system from early childhood through post secondary education
May 19, 2011

Audio can be found Here. Steve begins at the 49:20 mark.


Chairs Komp and Monroe and members of the Committee, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

I’m here to oppose SB 909 because I’m afraid that the legislature is about to fall into the “bigger is better” trap. You can’t unify everything from early childhood through post-secondary education without pushing power and control even farther away from the people who should matter most – parents and students.

You’re also about to fall into a related trap that says consolidating agencies, school districts, ESD’s, etc. will lead to efficiencies and cost savings.

Similar efforts have already been tried in Oregon, and failed. Starting before Dr. Kitzhaber became governor the first time, while he was Senate President, the legislature mandated a reduction in the number of school districts, hoping to see cost savings. Between 1992 and 2001 the number of districts fell from 277 to 198.

At the end of the process there were actually more central office staff per pupil than at the beginning. Also, non-teaching staff grew faster than teachers, and per student spending, adjusted for inflation, rose more than 11 percent.

You should ask how the new unifying effort embodied in SB 909 squares with the Education Act for the Twenty-First Century, which passed the legislature in 1991. Remember the certificates of initial and advanced mastery? Some of you probably don’t because they never gained any traction; they just cost taxpayers a lot of money.

And how does this new effort square with the Quality Education Model, which the legislature approved in 1999?

Why haven’t such efforts in the K-12 education system achieved their goals? Because, according to the late education policy analyst John Wenders, they “…suck power upward and away from parents and students into top down, centralized and inflexible political arrangements, where unions and other special interests have more political clout. This causes accountability to decline and results in higher per pupil costs and lower educational results.”*

Is the answer really to put everything from early childhood through post-secondary education into one centrally planned system? I’m sure the Governor and the people he’ll appoint to the Oregon Education Investment Board are very smart people. But no such group can hope to design a system that meets the needs of every, or even most, Oregon children and their parents.

To better meet those needs, we should be going in the opposite direction. Find ways to push power down from the current systems toward teachers, and parents and students. Whatever funding the legislature appropriates to education, give the parents and students much more say in where, and how, it’s spent. Until you can move in that direction, the least you should do is reject this latest attempt to push the power even further away from the people who the system is supposed to help.

Thank you.

 

* John T. Wenders, Ph.D., “Deconsolidate Oregon’s School Districts,” Cascade Policy Institute, March 2005.

 

 

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How to Turn Oregon’s Business Climate Around

Two recent reports confirm that Oregon has a long way to go if it wants to be seen as a business-friendly state.

 

Earlier this month, Chief Executive magazine released its latest survey of 550 CEO’s. They were asked to rank states for their business environment based on a wide range of criteria, including taxation, regulation, workforce and quality of living. Oregon came in at a disappointing number 33. The top five states, in order, were Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia.

 

Last week, the co-authors of “Rich States, Poor States,” which ranks every state’s economic competitiveness, reported in the Wall Street Journal that two of the 15 policies they look at “have consistently stood out as the most important in predicting where jobs will be created and incomes will rise. First, states with no income tax generally outperform high income tax states. Second, states that have right-to-work laws grow faster than states with forced unionism.”

Authors Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore further noted that “between 2000 and 2008, 4.8 million Americans moved from forced union states to right-to-work states—that’s one person every minute of every day.”

Oregon doesn’t have either of these two most important business-friendly policies. Not only do we have an income tax, but it’s the highest in the country at 11 percent right now. And, we allow forced unionization.

 

Oregonians, and their elected representatives who are looking for ways to improve our business climate and create jobs, need look no further than these two policies. Eliminate our income tax and end forced unionism, and watch Oregon grow.

 

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Karla Testifies on HB 3290 to Allow More Land Use Options for Farmers

On May 10, Karla Kay Edwards testified before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on HB 3290.

Click here to listen to her testify. Karla’s testimony starts at 45:29.

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Why This Mom Is Speaking out Against the PPS $548 Million Bond Measure

We’ve heard the Portland Public School District propaganda machine and the bureaucratic sound bytes about how the so-called school modernization bond will begin the important process of updating Portland schools, bring jobs to the community, increase student achievement, attract young families to the District, and on and on….

But what we don’t hear is a logical, compassionate response to the fact that this bond will tax people out of their homes. I’ve raised this issue many times and given the District plenty of opportunity to respond, but all I get is…crickets….

Could it be because they don’t want to recognize the striking disconnect between their establishment and the financial realities of most in their community?

I’ll let you decide the answer to that, but one thing is clear: It’s time they heard the voice of the taxpayers footing this bill.

I have received criticism from Portland bureaucrats that I couldn’t possibly understand what this means for the school district since, after all, I live in Wilsonville, I have a construction bond in my district, and our schools are being taken care of.

Here’s my response: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how a monumental tax increase will affect a community, especially in a recession. And, I don’t have to live in the District in order to pick up the phone, listen to heart-wrenching stories from folks on fixed incomes or barely scraping by, understand that this bond measure will put them on the streets, and become enraged at the audacity of the Portland Public School district for putting a “utopian” measure on the ballot with no regard for our economic condition.

I am an advocate for taxpayers statewide, and I will continue to speak out as long as the District remains deaf to the financial reality of its residents.

Since PPS likes to point out that I enjoy a school construction bond already in my district, I’d like to point out the consequences of that. Wilsonville is one of the highest property-taxed areas in Oregon, and when I receive my tax bill every year, it’s like swallowing a jagged horse pill. In fact, my mortgage payment was increased by $300/month at the start of this year to cover my bloated property taxes, which was devastating to my household budget.

Sound like something Portlanders want to take on? I think not.

Not when Portland is still suffering from the grips of economic recession, not when unemployment remains above 10 percent, not when homeowners are barely able to cover basic expenses, not when renters are in no position to deal with rent increases, not when foreclosures are still on the rise and this bond may add 1,000 homes to that list, not when this bond will cost the community 5,000 jobs due to the drastic decrease in disposable income, not when bricks and mortar will do absolutely nothing to increase the atrocious graduation rates within the district (average 53%), and not when the major supporters of the bond measure are the ones who stand to have their pockets lined at our expense.

This is a teachable moment for taxpayers. A time to push back against excess and to demand a more reasonable, financially viable option. The District needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a proposal that only focuses on the basic, critical structural needs of our schools.

PPS needs to heed the warning that this is no time for “wish list items.” Save those for after the economic recovery.


Lindsay Berschauer is a former Washington state construction company owner. Now an Oregon resident, she is speaking out against the School Modernization Bond Measure as a private citizen. Lindsay recently worked with Cascade Policy Institute as a research associate and now works for Third Century Solutions on the Oregon Transformation Project, which brings to Oregon citizens information and opportunities to bring about lasting budget and regulatory reforms that will ensure a robust and growing private sector. Berschauer’s son will be entering the public school system next year.

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Testimony in opposition to HB 3000

On May 11, 2011 Steve Buckstein testified against HB 3000, which would allow state and local government agencies to pay more for Oregon-made products.

Click here to listen to the hearing, which begins at 1:31 into the recording. Steve’s testimony begins at 16:31.

Testimony before the Senate General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee in opposition to HB 3000

Chair Shields and members of the Committee, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

I believe the so-called Buy Oregon First Bill, HB 3000, is not only bad public policy, but runs the risk of continuing an economic misunderstanding that will lead to repeated policy mistakes in years to come.

Basically, the bill allows state agencies to pay up to 10 percent more for goods fabricated or processed or services performed entirely within the state. The Governor says that “this bill will help Oregon businesses by encouraging the development and growth of our local supply chains, which will help create local jobs and revitalize our state’s economy.”*

Economists have exposed the fallacies of such thinking over the centuries. Henry George may have said it best in 1886 when he wrote**:

If to prevent trade were to stimulate industry and promote prosperity, then the localities where he was most isolated would show the first advances of man. The natural protection to home industry afforded by rugged mountain-chains, by burning deserts, or by seas too wide and tempestuous for…the early mariner, would have given us the first glimmerings of civilization and shown its most rapid growth. But, in fact, it is where trade could be best carried on that we find wealth first accumulating and civilization beginning. It is on accessible harbors, by navigable rivers and much traveled highways that we find cities arising and the arts and sciences developing.

Here in Oregon, we should recognize that Portland was located on two navigable rivers for a reason. Early settlers knew that having access to world markets was good. When people freely choose to trade with one another, consumers have access to more products at better prices, and workers have more job opportunities.

Any jobs that will be created from this bill will not offset the lost jobs and/or other lost opportunities that it imposes on consumers. Paying more for some goods and services means that agencies will have less to spend on other goods and services. While these choices may benefit some Oregon producers, they almost certainly will harm Oregon consumers in general.

As Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations in 1776, “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production, and the interest of the producers ought to be attended to only in so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”

Journalist James Glassman says of the Smith quote above, “That is a great lesson for all policymakers to bear in mind. Ask, does this policy help consumers? Free trade allows consumers to buy a cornucopia of higher quality goods from other countries at lower prices than they would pay if they were restricted to buying homemade goods. Trade is obviously a huge benefit for consumers–that is, individual buyers. And, says Adam Smith, what is better for consumers is always better for an economy…It is indeed true that some producers are hurt by free trade. And we can expect producers–such as textile industries and their employees and tomato growers–to kick and scream over free trade. Fine. But consumers–all 270 million of us–benefit mightily.”***

Everyone in this building wants to help create jobs; but favoring some producers at the expense of most consumers won’t, on balance, create jobs. Mankind has learned this lesson the hard way at least since the mercantilism of the 15th through 18th centuries. We forget it now at our peril.

Thank you.

 

* Governor Kitzhaber’s News Release, April 29, 2011, issued upon the passage of HB 3000 in the House.

** Henry George, “Protection or Free Trade,” 1886.
*** James K. Glassman, The Blessings of Free Trade, Cato Institute, May 1, 1998.

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Testimony in favor of House Bill 2825 A

Testimony before the Senate General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee in favor of House Bill 2825 A

Chair Shields and members of the Committee, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

It’s not often that I testify in favor of proposed legislation in this building. More often than not I’m in the minority, arguing against new laws, taxes or regulations.

Today, I’m happy to join with a diverse group of people and organizations asking you to add relevant information and results of select tax expenditures to the Oregon transparency website.

I know that we will have disagreements about individual economic development tax expenditure programs. In my case, I don’t believe that the state should be “picking winners and losers” through such programs in the first place. Either way, I hope we can all agree that as long as such programs do exist, they should be transparent to your constituents.

The original transparency website legislation last session (HB 2500) resulted in a good start toward providing useful state financial information online. I believe that HB 2825 A this session takes a significant step forward in that process, and I urge you to support it.

Thank you.

 

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Ideas Matter, and So Do Institutions

When Cascade was founded in 1991, I was in my 12th year as executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council. Before that I had worked for a national environmental group based in New York. I was an unlikely candidate to ever lead a free-market think tank.

While I was not immediately aware that Cascade had been formed 20 years ago, I was aware that my own views about environmental protection were changing. The large sources of smokestack pollution I had seen as a boy growing up in northern New Jersey were well-controlled by the 1990s. Chronic urban smog, largely the result of auto emissions mixing with other chemicals in the presence of sunlight, had been permanently eliminated in most major cities due to dramatically improved auto technology. With virtually all pollution trends moving downward, things were so much better that environmental activists were increasingly looking for things to do just to keep busy (though they would never admit that).

In 1992 a friend suggested I take a look at Reason magazine, the journal of policy and culture published by the Reason Foundation. Becoming a subscriber opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about how we organize ourselves as a society and prompted me to think critically about natural resource policy. At roughly the same time, Oregon economist Randal O’Toole began publishing Different Drummer, a journal for “libertarian environmentalists.” I had a hard time even understanding that phrase, but I had followed Randal’s work for over a decade (pioneering the use of economic analysis of public land timber sales) and had a lot of respect for his thinking. Different Drummer regularly showed how large, intrusive government inevitably created incentives that resulted in both economic inefficiency and environmental destruction.

In 1994 Cascade Policy Institute sponsored its first Better Government Competition (BGC), which it billed as a “statewide citizens suggestion box” for ideas about how to reduce the size of government or to improve the delivery of government services. For some random reason I received a copy of the announcement, and since there were cash prizes available (always a good incentive), I carefully read it over. After thinking about it I submitted an idea related to electronic tolling of roads and variable (peak-hour) pricing.

My concept was not named one of the 10 finalists, but I enjoyed writing it and it introduced me to Cascade’s work in a more personal way. As I received announcements about CPI events, I began attending just to check out this whole free-market policy scene. I went to a Cascade lunch featuring José Piñera, the world’s leading authority on converting Social Security programs to asset accounts. That was quite a refreshing presentation.

I also attended a small meeting where I was introduced to Ted Kolderie from Minnesota, the father of the charter school movement. The meeting was facilitated by Cascade, though CPI’s co-founder Steve Buckstein now admits he thought the whole charter school concept was never going to work. So much for predictions!

I also went to a highly entertaining CPI presentation by Marshall Fritz, who made a compelling argument for a complete return of education services to the private sector on a voluntary, market-driven basis.

By 1995 it had become clear to me that the environmental movement was no longer focused on protecting the environment; it had been taken over by people who were much more interested in simply controlling people’s lives. Oregon land-use planning in particular had become a nightmare that was destroying the lives of thousands of people, for no reason other than the planner obsession for control. And federal forest regulation in the wake of the Spotted Owl litigation had placed thousands of Oregon workers on the unemployment list, while turning federal forests into museums that we could look at but not touch. I knew that my time at the Environmental Council was drawing to a close.

In 1996 Cascade sponsored its second BGC, and I entered it again. This time I suggested selling the Elliott State Forest and placing the proceeds (estimated at the time to be $880 million or more) into the Common School Fund to finance a school voucher program. I was named one of the 10 winners of the 1996 competition (apparently the judges were better that year); and in the process of converting my concept into a business plan, I got to know the early CPI staff – Steve, Tracie Sharp, Kurt Weber and Patrick Stephens. We had fun visiting in the office and at events, but it never crossed my mind that I might eventually work there.

However, in the spring of 1996 I announced my resignation from OEC, effective October of that year. I had pushed the OEC board as far as I could in the direction of free-market environmentalism, but they would not go any further. And my public questioning of land-use regulation and the Portland obsession with light rail made it clear that we needed to part company. I had no master plan for my next step and no job offers, but I knew it was time to leave.

In November and December of 1996, I began enjoying being out of the work force for the first time in my adult life and occasionally dropped by the CPI office to chat. On one of those visits, Steve engaged me in a long conversation (which turned out to be my job interview), and then asked if I would like to work full-time at Cascade to promote a property rights-based approach to environmental policy. I didn’t really know what it would mean to be an analyst with CPI, and I’d have to take a pay cut from my previous job, but I decided that working at Cascade would be fun. And professionally, it was a relief to know that Cascade was a place where I would never be too radical when it came to limiting the scope of government!

So now I’m in my 15th year at Cascade. Steve works for me (where he is happy to be out of management), and two of the three founding board members – Dave Gore and Bill Udy – are still serving. Our annual budget has gone up from $67,000 to $1.1 million, and our staff includes 12 people. We’ve evolved from the traditional “think tank” role of publishing papers and hosting speakers; we’re now very active in state legislative affairs and routinely send our analysts around the state to engage people and encourage their activism at a grassroots level.

Among think-tankers it’s common to hear the phrase “ideas matter,” and that’s true. But ideas by themselves rarely change society. We also need social change agents. We need institutions that can nurture ideas, market them, engage potential allies, and help tear down the various Berlin Walls that separate selected fields of state-dominated policy (such as the monopolies in education, highways, transit and public lands) from the marketplace. We need organizations that can attract unlikely supporters – like former leaders of environmental groups – into a growing parade for freedom.

Now in its 20th year, Cascade Policy Institute has changed my life, by taking ideas espoused by Madison, Jefferson, Friedman and others and making them policy-relevant to contemporary times. Cascade’s stated mission – to promote “individual liberty, economic opportunity and personal responsibility” – is one that I am passionate about. We are changing lives, one step at a time, and it is very rewarding to play a role in this process.

Cascade still has a lot of work to do, but we are gaining new supporters almost every day. The freedom parade is growing, and we appreciate everything you have done to make this happen.

 

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Poison Pills vs. Gun Rights

Three common sense firearms bills passed the House of the Oregon Legislature and are now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, they are not only in jeopardy, but there is a possibility they will be amended with “poison pills.”

 

The three bills address very different, yet important, issues. The first makes Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHL) not subject to public records laws except under specific circumstances; the second allows reciprocity to out of state CHL holders; and the third provides a legal means to carry a firearm on a motorcycle, snowmobile or ATV.

 

During recent Senate hearings on these bills, the public was asked to testify on concepts that were not in writing, yet were under consideration as amendments to the bills. One concept was simply stated as “guns on public school grounds.” Another was “access to firearms for persons suffering from mental health issues.” The concepts were not defined or thought out. They are broad, sweeping issues that in no way pertained to the bills under consideration. Currently, these bills have bipartisan support and likely would pass the Senate in their current form. But if they are amended to include any of these concepts, the bills may suffer a quick death even though they address important issues that affect our 2nd Amendment rights.

 

The “poison pill” tactic isn’t new in politics, but it is cowardly. If anti-gun activists have issues they want addressed, they should introduce a bill and go through a legitimate public process, not hide behind political antics.

 

 

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Testimony regarding HB 3605: Requires Oregon Governments to Fund OPEB Benefits

Testimony of John A. Charles, Jr., regarding HB 3605: Requires Oregon Governments to Fund OPEB
Before the House Rules Committee, May 9, 2011


My name is John Charles and I am President & CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-profit policy research organization. Cascade supports HB 3605 and believes it can be one of the most significant bills of the session.

 

HB 3605 grew out of concern regarding the unfunded, long-term public sector liabilities associated with “Other Post-Employment Benefits”, or OPEB. These benefits include things other than pensions, such as dental, vision and medical coverage.

 

All across the country, state and local governments are discovering that many of the commitments made to public employees about retirement benefits require funding that those units of government don’t have. Consequently, most governments are failing to place adequate reserves in trust funds to pay for future obligations. Instead, they are paying only what they owe current retirees, while allowing future obligations to quietly grow.

 

Up until recently, taxpayers and even most elected officials had no way of knowing how bad the problem was. However, in 2004 the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) adopted Statement 45, which requires that all units of government undertake a valuation of their OPEB obligations and state those obligations in annual financial reports. Implementation of GASB 45 was phased in during 2007-2009, and all units of government must now comply.

 

OPEB audits must calculate liabilities for all current and future retirees, amortized over a period not to exceed 30 years. Based on these calculations, actuaries determine what the Annual Required Contribution (ARC) would be if each entity paid for current OPEB benefits as well as a pro-rated share of future obligations.

 

However, the ARC is not actually mandatory, despite use of the word “required”; governments must publish information about net OPEB liabilities, but are not required to create OPEB trust funds or pay anything into trust funds. That remains a policy choice of each individual government.

 

Additional background information about GASB 45 is attached on the yellow sheet.

 

The Oregon Problem

 

A review last year of audited financial statements for 100 randomly-chosen Oregon governments (green spreadsheet, attached) by Jacob Szeto of the Oregon Capitol News (an affiliate of Cascade Policy Institute) showed that there are more than $3 billion in OPEB liabilities. Of that total, only 7.8% is funded. Most governments have no money set aside in OPEB trust funds, as can be seen in the “Funded Ratio” column on the green spreadsheet (3rd column from the right).

 

By way of comparison, at December 31, 2010, Oregon PERS was funded at roughly an 88% level, plus the total obligations are known. For OPEB liabilities, the level of under-funding is much worse, and the total obligations are not known. If there are $3 billion in unfunded OPEB liabilities from 100 units of government, one can only speculate what the total is for the roughly 1,700 units of government in Oregon.

 

Reliance on a pay-as-you-go system means that long-term unfunded liabilities will likely grow, creating cash flow problems for future managers, especially as large numbers of baby boomers begin retiring.

 

The Policy Solution: HB 3605 takes a very simple approach to this problem by requiring that all units of government in Oregon make Annual Required Contributions (ARC) into OPEB trust funds, as determined by outside actuaries.

 

This is not a new concept. ORS 238.420 already requires an ARC for the Retirement Health Insurance Account (RHIA), which is a multi-employer OPEB system administered by PERS.  That law states in part:

“The Retirement Health Insurance Account shall be funded by employer contributions. Each public employer that is a member of the system shall transmit to the board such amounts as the board determines to be actuarially necessary to fund the liabilities of the account. The level of employer contributions shall be established by the board using the same actuarial assumptions it uses to determine employer contribution rates to the Public Employees Retirement Fund. The amounts shall be transmitted at the same time and in the same manner as contributions for pension benefits are transmitted under ORS 238.225.”

 

 

If you look on the green spreadsheet, you’ll notice that RHIA (listed as #2 on page one) has a funded ratio of 41.9%. It is one of the very few entities with any money in a trust fund. Although the agency has unfunded actuarial liabilities of $297 million, that amount represents only 3.5% of the covered payroll, so the risk is minor.

Some people may ask if this bill is an “attack” on organized labor, or government itself. The answer is “no.” It is simply an attempt to ensure that promises made to employees about retirement benefits are kept. If specific units of government will not have the money to keep those promises, then managers should have an adult conversation with their employees NOW, not at some unknown time in the future when the crisis explodes.

 

Note that HB 3506 does not tell governments how to respond to an OPEB funding problem; it simply requires them to comply with the ARC. If there is no way to make sufficient cash payments into OPEB trust fund accounts now, then that problem needs to be addressed, and there are probably thousands of ways that individual OPEB liabilities could be reduced.

 

One of the most common methods is to change the vesting period for post-employment benefits. If, for instance, employees now have only a two-year vesting period to receive retirement medical benefits, and the vesting period were changed to six years, the OPEB liability (as calculated by the actuaries) would go down, thus the ARC would go down.

 

For employees who actually work longer than six years, this would have no effect on their benefits, so it is a relatively painless way of addressing the OPEB funding problem.

 

Other potential solutions would depend on the specific nature of employee contracts at the various governments.

 

Poster Child for HB 3605: TriMet

 

A quick glance at the attached spreadsheet will show that TriMet is #1 in unfunded liabilities, by any measure. In fact, the agency is not just #1 – it is an outlier so extreme that it begs some form of explanation. A brief discussion may assist legislators in understanding the need for HB 3605.

 

In 1994 TriMet changed the basic template of its union contract, incrementally lowering the age of retirement and dramatically increasing post-employment benefits. The cost of these obligations steadily accrued each year, but TriMet did not create a trust fund to pay for them. Since GASB 45 did not yet exist, almost no one outside the agency knew about this ticking time bomb.

 

In 2008 TriMet adopted GASB 45, and the district’s outside audit showed, for the first time, a “schedule of funding progress” for OPEB. The Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability (UAAL) for OPEB as of January 1, 2008 was $ 632 million.

 

In the 2010 TriMet budget document, the narrative to the Board stated, “TriMet needs to begin to take steps to partially fund a retiree-medical trust to assure a funding source for retiree health benefits, which have already been accrued but are not yet funded.” That was a clear and concise statement of need — yet the adopted budget for that year (FY 10-11) included zero funding for the OPEB trust fund.

 

In the very back of that document, on page 241, TriMet presented a revealing 10-year financial forecast. A copy is attached (the blue page). In that forecast, TriMet predicted that it would finally begin funding the OPEB trust with a token payment of $1 million in 2012, followed by identical payments for the next four years (line U on the blue sheet). The agency did not anticipate getting serious until FY 2019, when it projected an OPEB payment of $10 million.

 

Five months later, TriMet’s 2010 audit was released. The audit showed that in just two years the OPEB liability had ballooned from $632 million to $817 million, and all of it was unfunded.

 

Last month, TriMet released its draft budget for FY 11-12. The narrative is now much more evasive about the subject of OPEB. On page six, it simply states, “The FY 12 proposed budget reflects pay as you go funding of OPEB costs for retirees, and an initial deposit to an OPEB trust to begin funding future retiree OPEB benefit.” It does not say how much.  Also, the 10-year financial forecast page has been deleted.

 

If you search long enough, however, you can finally find on page 45 that the promised payment of $1 million has been downgraded to $410,000. Meanwhile, the OPEB liability keeps rising by the month, and is now probably in the neighborhood of $900 million.

 

Like high school students who keep telling their parents that they will start on that big term paper “tomorrow”, the TriMet Board has been procrastinating for 17 consecutive years on OPEB. This is setting up both employees and future board members for a massive meltdown later this decade.

 

It is important to note that TriMet’s OPEB problem is not the result of declining revenues. To the contrary, TriMet has been one of the few units of government with rising revenues, thanks in part to the legislature.

 

In both 2003 and 2009 the legislature authorized increases in the regional payroll and self-employment tax for TriMet (and Lane County Transit). TriMet began implementing the tax rate hike in January 2005, and will continue to implement it by raising the rate by 1/100th of a percentage point every year through 2024.

 

The chart below shows that the payroll tax increase, combined with substantial increases in passenger fares and federal grants, has led to both operating and capital funding increases that most local governments could only dream of.

 

TriMet Financial Resources, 2004-2012[1]

(millions)

 

FY 04/05 FY 08/09 FY 09/10 FY 10/11 (est) FY 11/12 (budget) % Change 04/05-11/12
Passenger Fares $   59.49 $   90.10 $   93.73 $   97.97 $103.80 74.5%
Payroll tax revenue $171.23 $209.10 $207.10 $217.20 229.10 33.8%
Total operating resources $308.77 397.24 $423.50 $424.20 $443.21 43.6%
Total resources $493.72 $888.35 $809.75 $763.66 $1,004.44 103.44%

 

TriMet will likely respond by stating that the purpose of the payroll tax rate increase was to pay for the “operating cost of new service”, not OPEB liabilities, which is true; but as the chart below illustrates, the increased service never materialized. In fact, service has been steadily dropping for the past three years:

 

Service Trends for TriMet Since the Payroll Tax Rate Increased in 2005

Fixed Route Service – light rail, bus, commuter rail[2]

 

 

March 2004 March 2006 March 2008 March 2010 March 2011 % Change
Peak vehicles 620 602 611 627 599 -3.4%
Service hours 147,138 143,308 144,912 143,089 132,777 -9.8%
Vehicle miles 2,684,606 2,620,246 2,546,365 2,531,041 2,357,214 -12.2%

 

 

To summarize, the agency hit a gusher of cash in the past seven years, but proceeded to cut service by 12% while dramatically increasing its unfunded OPEB liability. This is a financial disappearing act that would make Penn & Teller envious.

 

While TriMet is an extreme form of the management problem HB 3605 attempts to address, the challenge is the same across the board: promises are being made at many governments for post-employment benefits that probably cannot be kept. The time to deal with fiscal reality is now. The legislature should step in to require that modest steps be taken based on a 25-year amortization schedule.

 

It is rare that legislators have a chance to enact laws that will demonstrably make a positive difference for future generations. This is one of those cases.

 

Thank you for your consideration.


[1] TriMet budget documents, various years, 2004-2011

[2] TriMet monthly performance reports, 2004-2011

 

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2011 Spring / Summer newsletter is out

Keep your eyes open for the latest issue of the Cascade Update, coming to a mailbox near you! If you’d rather check it out online, you can download it here.

To get on the mailing list for the Cascade Update, email deanne@cascadepolicy.org

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Testimony on SB 99 A: Oregon Health Insurance Exchange as public corporation to be governed by board of directors

Testimony on SB 99 A: Requires Oregon Health Authority to establish Oregon Health Insurance Exchange as public corporation to be governed by board of directors

Before the House Committee on Health Care

by Steve Buckstein

Click Here for Audio (Steve begins at the 31:56 mark)

Co-Chair Greenlick, Co-Chair Thompson and members of the Committee, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

I’m here today not to support or oppose SB 99 A, but to put on the record my concerns that if the state does enact an insurance exchange as envisioned in the bill, it should use the exchange as an opportunity to expand rather than restrict consumer choice.

As you may know, the U.S. House earlier this week voted to bar funding for state insurance exchanges. While this effort may very well fail, the Obama Administration took the vote as an opportunity to re-state its position that:

“Exchanges will allow Americans to compare prices and health insurance
plans and decide which quality, affordable option is right for them.”*

In order to make such decisions meaningful, Oregonians should have more insurance plan options than the state currently allows.  As I testified here on March 7th in favor of HB 2977, Oregonians should be allowed to purchase any policy offered in other states by companies licensed to sell insurance in those states. I’m sure that DCBS concerns about putting these companies on a level regulatory playing field with companies already approved to sell insurance in Oregon can be satisfied.

The exchange should also be open to approving new policies offered within Oregon that do not include all the current state mandates. Whatever decisions are made at the national level regarding the so-called “Essential Health Benefits” package, Oregon should be a leader in allowing our citizens as much choice as possible consistent with full disclosure. This will allow the exchange to satisfy the needs of consumers who want more affordable insurance choices as well as those who want more comprehensive coverage.

If the exchange does not offer such choices, it will quickly become part of the problem, both driving up costs and pushing more people out of the insurance marketplace.

In conclusion, I hope the exchange you envision is charged with helping to open up the insurance marketplace to more affordable plans, thus being be part of the solution.
Thank you, and I would be happy to take any questions.

* “House Votes to Bar U.S. Funding for Insurance Exchanges”, Bloomberg.com, May 4, 2011,

 

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Additional Graduation Requirement Misses the Point

Last week, Oregon’s state House passed a bill that would require students to apply for post-secondary education, the military, or an apprenticeship or to attend an informational session on a training program in order to receive their high school diploma. Bill supporters argue that this could increase the number of kids who enroll in higher education.

Yet, there is no evidence that such a program will increase enrollment in higher education. Already, 70% of U.S. students enroll in college within two years of high school graduation. But around 30% of students drop out, and many more fail to graduate on time according to the NCES, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. One major cause is that students are commonly unprepared for college-level work.

Around 40 percent of Oregon’s community college freshman enroll in remedial courses. And surveys by the NCES have found that about 1 in 4 freshmen in 4-year public universities enroll in remedial courses. Students who take remedial courses are far more likely to drop out of college. Yet startlingly, in a 2008 survey only 14% of such students thought their high school coursework had been difficult.

Rather than heap more top-heavy mandates on schools and students, the legislature would be wise to free schools to do what they are supposed to do: educate kids. And rather than manipulate children to apply for post-secondary education or the military, the legislature should empower kids to seek out and choose a high school education that will challenge them and prepare them for life.

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Oregon’s Anti-BPA Packaging Legislation May Jeopardize Public Health

The Oregon Senate recently voted in favor of SB 695, which would ban BPA use for children’s food containers, baby bottles and sippy cups starting in January 2013. The Oregon House has yet to vote on the bill. While environmental activists were unable to get an all-out ban on BPA in other food packaging, they did get a provision that they will use to build momentum for such bans in the future: The bill creates a panel to “study” the potential for similar bans on other food packaging. However, BPA has already been studied extensively around the world. This new state-level panel is unlikely to discover any new information, but instead it simply will be used to push the activists’ agenda to ban more uses of BPA.

This anti-BPA legislation is based on environmental activists’ wrongheaded claims that BPA poses unreasonable risk to human health, specifically to children, although the overwhelming body of research suggests otherwise. Ironically, these policies threaten to undermine food safety because BPA is used to make resins that line metal cans and other packaging to prevent development of dangerous pathogens and other contamination. And there are few good alternatives should lawmakers eventually ban BPA. According to a World Health Organization report: “[A]t present, there appears to be no single replacement for BPA for all food contact applications. Furthermore, data on the safety of some of these replacement materials are limited or non-existent.” In other words, misguided bans of BPA in food packaging could have serious, adverse public health implications.

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.

NEGLIBLE RISK. In wide use for over 50 years, BPA has been extensively studied. The best science tells us that consumer exposure to BPA is far below levels of concern. An analysis published in Medscape General Medicine reveals that consumers are most likely exposed to BPA at levels that are 100 to 1,000 times lower than EPA’s estimated safe exposure levels. It notes further that the research on BPA also shows that the exposure levels per body weight are similar for adults and children, which indicates that infant exposure is not significantly higher. Moreover, risks to humans are probably much lower than these estimates suggest because humans metabolize BPA faster and better than do the rodents used in BPA studies.

ENDOCRINE SCIENCE. Scientific research identifies BPA as “weakly estrogenic.” Humans are regularly exposed to such estrogen mimicking compounds. Most are produced by plants: so-called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are found in all legumes, with particularly high levels found in soy. The impact of weakly estrogenic synthetic substances like BPA is insignificant compared to human exposures to naturally occurring phytoestrogens in the human diet. According to data from a 1999 National Academy of Sciences study, exposure to natural phytoestrogens is 100,000 to 1 million times higher than exposure to estrogen mimicking substances found in BPA. “Given the huge relative disparity between the exposure to phytoestrogens as compared to BPA concentrations, the risk of BPA in consumer products appears to be about the same as a tablespoon of soy milk,” notes researcher Jonathan Tolman.

COMPREHENSIVE STUDIES AND REVIEWS. Scientific panels around the world have reviewed, and continue to review, the complete body of evidence and none report serious concerns about BPA. These include:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

“An adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.”

The European Union Risk Assessment: The EU’s risk assessments in 2006 and reviews in 2008 and 2010 find no compelling evidence of BPA-related health effects at estimated human exposure levels.

National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (Japan): This extensive study found that “the risks posed by BPA were below the levels of concern.”

U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP): This review found no direct evidence of problems among humans. It expressed minimal to negligible concern for almost all factors. It called for more research in one area where it has only “some concern” because rodent studies showed some association of potential effects on behavior.

Health Canada: “Health Canada’s Food Directorate has concluded that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and young children.”

BPA bans will do little for public health, since they do not address significant risks. They are part of an ever-expanding arbitrary regulatory state that places many valuable products and freedoms at risk.

This Commentary is drawn from “Anti-BPA Packaging Laws Jeopardize Public Health,” by Angela Logomasini, Ph.D., published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

 


 
Angela Logomasini is Director of Risk and Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. At CEI, Angela conducts research and analysis on environmental regulatory issues. She is co-editor of CEI’s book “The Environmental Source”, and her articles have been published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Washington Times and other papers.

 

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Press Release: Light Rail and Streetcar Fail to Provide “High-Capacity” Service, Study Shows

study released today by Cascade Policy Institute shows that TriMet’s so-called “High-Capacity Transit” system – comprised of light rail, the Portland Streetcar and commuter rail – is incapable of actually moving large numbers of people when needed. Moreover, most of the time there is no demand for high-capacity transit because the region’s population is too dispersed, and people prefer to travel by modes other than passenger rail.

The study, Light Rail, Streetcars & the Myth of “High Capacity Transit,  measured actual trip choices made during 2010 at five big events when presumably “high-capacity” transit would be in demand: the Portland Green Building home show held in March at the Multnomah County Expo Center; the opening night show of the Cirque du Soleil in April; the final playoff game of the year for the Portland Trail Blazers in May; “Black Friday” at the Cascade Station shopping center in November; and December 21st at the Gresham Civic Station shopping center in December. The results were:

  • Light rail use at the Green Home Show averaged 20% of all passenger-trips;
  • Streetcar use at the Cirque du Soleil opening show was 8%;
  • Light rail use at the Blazer game was 21%;
  • Rail use at Cascade Station averaged 2% over a two-day period in November; and
  • Light rail at Gresham Civic Station carried 2% of all passenger-trips for the morning commute period and 2% of all passenger-trips for the mid-day shopping period.

In total, 47,666 passenger-trips were observed or estimated, and rail only garnered 11% of the market share, as summarized below.

Summary Totals
All passenger-trips to all events, by mode choice

 

Green
home
show
Circus Blazers Cascade
Station
Gresham
Station
Totals Market
share
(%)
Rail 516 110 4,238 333 120 5,317 11%
Auto 2,106 1,245 14,636 (est) 17,570 5,101 40,658 85%
Other 0 0 1,626(est) 5 55 1,686 4%
Total 2,622 1,355 20,500 17,908 5,276 47,666 100%

Note: For the Blazer game, only light-rail trips were observed; other mode totals were estimated.

In all cases except for the Blazer game, actual seating capacity of the trains was never an issue because so few customers chose to ride, even when on-site parking was quite expensive. In the one case where high-capacity transit would have been very helpful – the Blazer playoff game – the light rail system was overwhelmed by crowds and could only muster 21% of market share despite the use of four different MAX lines – the Yellow, Green, Blue and Red lines.

The reason for the modest transit totals is that light rail is inherently a low-capacity system, because there are only two rail cars per train. The system cannot use more than two cars because trains travel on surface streets in downtown Portland. If trains had 8-9 cars, as is common with the New York City subway or other heavy rail systems, the trains would be blocking downtown intersections for minutes at a time.

Also, trains generally cannot run at greater frequencies than every three minutes due to operational and safety requirements. In most cases, trains only run every 12-15 minutes, or less often. These constraints limit passenger-throughput compared to a bus transit system where vehicles can travel with minimal spacing requirements.

Cascade President John A. Charles, Jr. conducted the research with the help of several assistants. He stated, “The field research shows that continued use of the phrase ‘high-capacity transit’ by local planners to describe the regional rail program is Orwellian. Light rail is actually a low-capacity system, and the streetcar is simply irrelevant. TriMet’s buses carries two-thirds of all regional transit trips on a daily basis, and that’s the service that should be recognized as high-capacity transit. Unfortunately, bus service is being sacrificed by TriMet in order to build costly new rail lines that carry relatively few people.”

 

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Oregon Budget 101 feat Dan Lucas – Other Funds Budget

Dan Lucas discusses the Oregon Other Funds Budget, from the origins of the money to the reasons why we need to get the money into the General Fund.

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