Blog Posts

Improving Oregon’s budget and business climate

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Now that Oregon has a new governor-elect, speculation begins about how he will deal with Oregon’s continuing budget shortfall and poor business climate.

Conventional wisdom says (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

To reduce the influence of money, limit government’s power

QuickPoint!

Every now and then we hear the call for taxpayer-funded political campaigns at the national or state level. Now, it’s even at the local level.

Two Portland government officials want taxpayers to underwrite campaigns for city elections. City Commissioner Erik Sten and Auditor Gary Blackmer contend that the (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Majority vote does not change wrong into right

QuickPoint!

A sign in a government community center reads, “Exercise your freedom and vote!” This exhortation may sound good, but it should cause one to pause and ask: Is freedom really about voting?

Cato Institute president Ed Crane once remarked that the people in Poland, China, and other such places did not, and do not, rebel against oppression just so they can vote. Rather, they risk their lives to be free to live without (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Flaws in education reform exposed

QuickPoint!

Discontent with Oregon’s education reform is now coming from new areas. Recently the Tigard-Tualatin School Board voted to side with teachers and drop state-required work samples that schools use to assess student learning in a variety of subjects.

Those who question the state’s curriculum and assessment policies correctly see this as a (more…)

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Categories: Education

First, do no harm

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Why are so many Oregonians calling for a single-payer health care plan funded by personal income and payroll taxes? In large part such calls result from believing several myths about our health care system.

The first myth is that (more…)

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Categories: Healthcare

Protect everyone’s basic (property) rights

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Last week the Oregon Supreme Court invalidated ballot Measure 7, which voters passed in November 2000. Had it been enacted, Measure 7 would have helped constrain local governments’ zoning powers by requiring them to compensate land owners in certain cases where regulations caused a loss of property value.

Though the Supreme Court’s ruling is disappointing, the authors of Measure 7 have (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

A better direction for special education

QuickPoint!

A recent report by an Oregon legislative task force outlines how the state should improve special education. A number of concerns prompted the task force’s formation. Spending for special education has risen rapidly in the past decade, as documented by a new Cascade Policy Institute study. Significant resources are expended on paperwork and administration and special education programs are driven by (more…)

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Categories: Education

An electric idea to save taxpayers half-a-million bucks

QuickPoint!

Portland’s Mayor Katz and Commissioner Sten are spending a half-million dollars to study the city’s rights to acquire most of PGE’s assets, possibly through condemnation. The idea of a government takeover of PGE should die a quick death.

Here’s the most obvious question. A sour economy has pushed commissioners to seek (more…)

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Categories: Tax and Budget

Principles, not taxes, needed to balance state budget

QuickPoint!

In June of 1993 Cascade Policy Institute published the report Seven Principles of State Budget Reform. Ironically the opening sentence asked, “Why is there another fiscal crisis in Oregon?”

The current so-called budget crisis is not an accident: It was created by the (more…)

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Categories: Tax and Budget

September 11th

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Even after a year, it’s too early to know what September 11th will eventually come to symbolize for our country. What it should not symbolize is a turning point beyond which Americans willingly began giving up some of the very liberties that made, and keep this country great.

Before the attacks, Americans were (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Sustainable development

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The United Nations conference on sustainable development is winding down after a week of hand-wringing in Johannesburg, South Africa. As expected, the United States served as an international piñata for many of the delegates from poor nations. In speech after speech, the U.S. was criticized for its level of affluence, especially relative to other nations. South African President Thabo Mbeki, opening the conference, claimed that “a global human society based on poverty for many and prosperity for a few, is unsustainable.”

However, the notion that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is (more…)

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Categories: Environment

Canadians and Brits wait for health care … and wait

QuickPoint!

Oregonians will vote this fall on a ballot initiative that advocates a virtual government take over of all health care in the state. A look at Canada’s government-run health care system offers insight into the side-effects of such an idea.

To control costs, the Canadian government has (more…)

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Categories: Healthcare

Put children, not schools, first

QuickPoint!

The bipartisan No Child Left Behind education bill is unlikely to achieve its stated aims. However, it has helped show that many associated with government schools are more interested in preserving power than improving education.

The new federal law requires school districts to inform (more…)

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Categories: Education

GOP: The Bigger Government Party

QuickPoint!

Republicans in Oregon and elsewhere are in danger of losing votes, and elections, due to their hypocrisy about smaller government and lower taxes. Gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix is exemplar. He’s deservedly catching flak for being an advocate of higher state spending in the next biennium.

Political satirist P.J. O’Rourke notes, “Giving money and power to government is like (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Wildfires show need to decentralize federal lands

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

In the 1970s the U.S. Forest Service came to look at fires as a natural part of a healthy forest ecosystem and officially ended its long-standing policy of putting out all fires by 10 a.m. Unfortunately, the policy change was only on paper.

There are bureaucratic obstacles to letting fires burn. In addition, the Forest Service receives a blank check for fire suppression-needed revenue in light of the 80 percent decline in timber sales that occurred in the ’90s. Thus, the Forest Service continues to suppress (more…)

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Categories: Land Use

Time to revisit privatizing Social Security

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The stock market has plunged over the last two years. Recent corporate accounting scandals have shaken the public’s trust in big companies and their management. Is now the time to revisit privatizing Social Security? You bet it is. In fact, if you’re going to start investing in the market, wouldn’t you prefer to start when the Dow is 8,700, rather than 10,000?

Over long periods of time, market rates of return have (more…)

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Categories: Tax and Budget

The high cost of government health care

QuickPoint!

Dr. David MacDonald is a co-founder of the American Association of Patients and Providers. Talk with him and he’ll provide numerous examples of decreasing health care costs in Oregon and across the country. From routine lab tests to MRIs to office visits, cost reductions are happening, he explains, because patients and physicians are once again becoming active consumers.

This trend is gaining momentum. The results will be (more…)

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Categories: Healthcare

OHSU Tram: Forward into the Past!

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The recent decision by the Portland City Council to build a tram from Oregon Health Sciences University to the North Macadam district is reminiscent of the decision to fast- track the construction of light-rail to the Portland airport. In both cases, the transportation projects were deemed essential to the development of vacant land that would eventually create 10,000 new jobs.

Both projects were also “railroaded” through the political process in a (more…)

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Categories: Transportation

Education freedom key to religious liberty

QuickPoint!

The debate surrounding government education and religion took an interesting turn with recent court decisions regarding school vouchers and the Pledge of Allegiance. Together these two decisions provide a template for thinking about how to respect the rights of both the religious and the irreligious within education.

The Bill of Rights limits government’s involvement in (more…)

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Categories: Education

Charter school law too restrictive

QuickPoint!

Oregon passed its charter school law to foster educational freedom. The recent negotiations over the Mitch (Multisensory instruction teaching children hands-on) Charter School in Tigard-Tualatin illustrates one of the law’s several flaws.

Charter schools must receive approval from the local school district, a significant (more…)

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Categories: Education

Victory for school choice!

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long awaited ruling that low-income children in Cleveland can use publicly funded vouchers, worth up to $2,250 per child, to attend secular or religious private schools. The decision makes good on the promise made nearly 50 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education. The message from the High Court is that parents of all income levels have the right to choose the safest and best schools for their children.

Wealthier families can already (more…)

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Categories: Education

I-5 Partnership locks in traffic

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The I-5 Partnership, representing the states of Oregon and Washington, will adopt final recommendations this week for alleviating traffic problems on Interstate 5 between Portland and Vancouver. The recommendations cost over $2 billion, but will do little to actually improve traffic flow.

The primary reason is that nearly half the money will (more…)

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Categories: Transportation

Business support for public power raises red flags

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The failure of so-called electricity deregulation in California and the bankruptcy of Enron Corporation have led to calls for public ownership of Enron subsidiary Portland General Electric. Some businesses have jumped on the bandwagon, including large electricity consumers such as computer chipmaker Intel.

Public ownership proponents argue that (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Keep the quorum: Preserve the double-majority rule

QuickPoint!

Low voter turnout in the recent Oregon primary election helped block numerous tax measures throughout the state. For that reason, some people wish to eliminate the 50 percent turnout requirement, which is simply a quorum rule.

To pass certain tax measures during a primary election, 50 percent plus one of those casting ballots must (more…)

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Categories: Tax and Budget

Do teacher unions really benefit children?

QuickPoint!

During the recent primary election the Oregon Education Association (OEA) got what it wanted by defeating Ballot Measure 13 and electing Susan Castillo to Superintendent of Public Instruction. Although the OEA’s effectiveness is admirable, it is questionable whether the union’s actions actually improve education.

The OEA is a union and like all unions is (more…)

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Categories: Education

What if they held an election and no one came?

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

Voter apathy is the popular explanation for low voter turnout. As the director of publications at a public policy think tank, I am as far from apathetic as you can get. I withheld my vote on purpose for several good, responsible reasons.

I do not participate in the party primaries because the (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Lesson from New Zealand: Plow under U.S. farm subsidies

QuickPoint!

President Bush showed his anti-consumer, anti-taxpayer side on Monday, May 13: he signed legislation that increased farm subsidies by $83 billion. This legislation, supported by Oregon’s U.S. Senators Smith and Wyden, and Representatives Wu, Walden and Hooley, shows corporate welfare is alive and kicking in Washington, DC with bi-partisan support.

U.S. farm subsidies were to have gradually ended with the (more…)

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Categories: Environment

School funding waltz: Measure 5, equalization and legislative puppeteering

QuickPoint!

Political candidates and editorial boards across the state blame Measure 5 for centralizing education funding in Salem. Although the initiative did give the state a greater role in school funding, a number of other changes have also furthered state involvement in education.

A case study is the Condon School District in eastern Oregon, which is struggling with budget cuts. Lynn Wilkins, Condon School Board chairman, said, “Prior to Measure 5 passing in 1990, Condon was (more…)

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Categories: Education

Drug prohibition, cigarette taxes and terrorism

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

When U.S. Drug Czar John Walters spoke in Portland last Friday he touched on the theme of his administration’s ad campaign: that if you use illegal drugs you’re helping to finance terrorism. He could have more accurately said that if you prohibit the sale of drugs, or raise cigarette taxes to abnormally high levels, you’re helping to finance terrorism.

We can ban products, but (more…)

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Categories: Tax and Budget

PERS: Let’s talk solutions

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

Gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton deserves praise for making the state’s financially insolvent Public Employees Retirement System a campaign issue. The fact that PERS threatens to bankrupt Oregon cities, counties and school districts is not news to elected officials. Previous reforms have left the fundamentally flawed structure of PERS intact, and the mounting debt is getting harder to ignore. Let’s talk real solutions.

Last year Cascade Policy Institute asked one of the (more…)

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Categories: Tax and Budget

Westside story shows land use planning flaws

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Recently the Westside Economic Alliance and others sponsored an economic “summit” to examine the economy of the Portland metro region. The centerpiece was a presentation by economist Joe Cortright.

Cortright’s extensive research showed that Washington County is the economic driving force in the region. Not surprisingly, high technology leads the way. That sector has over 60,000 jobs and is (more…)

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Categories: Land Use

Black holes in education spending

QuickPoint!

Oregon’s budget crisis is a blessing in disguise for schools. It has helped expand education debates from a myopic focus on total funding to a more useful discussion about spending priorities.

Despite an 11 percent increase in the K-12 education budget from the previous biennium, core education services are (more…)

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Categories: Education

Extend Enron scrutiny to government programs

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

The collapse of Enron has been grabbing headlines for months. Politicians are on a warpath to get to the bottom of the scandal. Their outrage is justified, but their vigilance shouldn’t end with Enron. Federal, state, and local governments are guilty of egregious fiscal mismanagement-on a much larger scale.

Worried about the lost retirement funds of Enron employees? It pales in comparison to (more…)

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Categories: Tax and Budget

Defuse drug testing debate through school choice

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The Oregon Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court heard similar cases last week about the constitutionality of drug tests in school.

Here in Oregon, sixteen year old Ginelle Weber and her parents object to Oakridge High School’s random drug tests for athletes. The federal case involves (more…)

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Categories: Education

Universities can flourish without Salem

QuickPoint!

The Oregon University System will sustain an additional $27.2 million in budget cuts, announced Governor Kitzhaber last week. The budget crunch should prompt universities to seek independence from budgeting decisions in Salem. One school may have a unique opportunity that could be instructive for the others.

A philanthropist offered the Oregon Institute of Technology a $100 million endowment to enable the school to (more…)

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Categories: Education

Columbia River dredging: It’s the pork, stupid!

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The Oregonian has stirred up debate recently with its investigative report on the proposed deepening of the Columbia River navigation channel. Now proponents and opponents are arguing about whether the net benefits will exceed the net costs, and which interest group will gain the most from federal investments.

Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable problem when (more…)

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Categories: Land Use

Creative solutions for school budgets

QuickPoint!

School districts in Oregon face budget cuts that present opportunities to empower teachers, control costs and direct greater resources to the classroom. Districts should consider the following proposals.

Health care: In the short-term, increasing deductibles and co-payments and limiting the employer contribution are the (more…)

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Categories: Education

Urban renewal gets another black eye

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

The Portland Development Commission has put 70 urban renewal projects on hold due to the recent Oregon Supreme Court decision in Shilo Inn v. Multnomah County. Amidst the collective hand wringing over the loss of funds, few are discussing the public financing sleight of hand that has been exposed thanks to Shilo.

The court determined that some property taxes dedicated to urban renewal projects were (more…)

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Categories: Land Use

CAFE carnage: Death by fuel economy standards

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Dozens of Oregonians are killed every year by fuel economy standards on new cars. The situation may soon get even worse.

The federal government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards impose average mile per gallon (mpg) requirements on every automaker’s yearly output of new cars. The current standard is (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Greater health insurance freedom would reduce OHP demand

QuickPoint!

Much noise was raised about protecting the Oregon Health Plan from budget cuts in the recent special legislative session. A more constructive ruckus would have started with the question: how can we get more affordable private health insurance, and thereby reduce the need for the OHP?

Randall J. Pozdena, Ph.D., noted in a November 2000 Cascade report, “Oregon is one of 16 states identified by the U.S. General Accounting Office as having (more…)

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Categories: Healthcare

Time to commercialize Oregon’s bridges

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The Oregonian‘s four-part story about Oregon’s slowly collapsing highway bridges points to a fundamental problem: we raise lots of revenue through transportation taxes, but there is no requirement that those funds be spent on maintenance.

Between 1986 and 1999, revenues collected from state gas taxes (more…)

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Categories: Tax and Budget

Education freedom linked to high test scores

QuickPoint!

The Manhattan Institute recently released its 2001 Education Freedom Index, which measures four types of educational freedom: the ability of parents to pursue charter school options, subsidized private schools, public school choice and home-schooling. Oregon ranked 16th, falling 11 places from the previous year. The drop in Oregon’s ranking occurred as other states sailed past Oregon to implement school choice reforms.

According to the report’s author (more…)

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Categories: Education

Term limits decision threatens initiative rights

Angela EckhardtQuickPoint!

Oregonians’ ability to make meaningful changes to their Constitution was further eroded when the Oregon Supreme Court struck down voter-approved term limits January 11 on a technicality. The court cited a newly recognized requirement for separate votes on proposed changes that are not “closely related.” The popular initiative originally applied term limits to both state and federal offices. Apparently the Court failed to see the connection.

This ruling leaves past initiatives open to challenge and (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Oregon lives beyond our means

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

When Governor Kitzhaber argues that we should pursue revenue increases to balance the budget, let’s not forget that Oregon is a very high spending state. According to recently released U.S. Census data, Oregon state and local governments spend more per capita than all but seven other states. This stark fact bolsters the argument that the budget should be balanced by cutting spending, not by raising taxes.

Fourteen months ago, long before (more…)

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Categories: Economic Opportunity

Socialized Medicine in Great Britain: Lessons for the Oregon Health Plan

by Professor John Spiers

Dr. John Spiers is a professor in the Business School, The University of Glamorgan, UK, a Senior Research Fellow at The Institute of Economic Affairs, and a Health Policy Adviser at the Social Market Foundation, both in London. He recently spent a month in our state studying the Oregon Health Plan. This paper is adapted from a talk Dr. Spiers gave on March 18, 1999 for Cascade Policy Institute, where he has been named an adjunct scholar.

1. Introduction:

The Oregon Plan, well intentioned as it is, mirrors the overall problems of American health care. The way this is structured prevents the working and the non-working American, the better off and the poor, from controlling their own lives and building better personal care. (more…)

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Categories: Healthcare