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