March 9, 2007
Thursday afternoon the Senate Republicans
denied the majority Democrats a quorum to do
Senate business. I participated to call
attention to my perception that the Democratic
political machine is losing sight of what is
best for the taxpaying public
When I make a business deal I try to know
and understand all the facts so that I can
make the best informed decision. Legislators
should do no less for the taxpaying public. In
their rush to get things done in their
political agenda our Democratic leadership is
forcing us to make decisions without time to
either determine or analyze the facts.
The current “deal” regarding taking the
corporate kicker to establish a “rainy day
fund” has been shifting like quicksand. The
original plan was designed to trade certain
corporate tax increases for other corporate
tax relief. Reincarnations of the plan are
presented every few hours and each is
significantly different. The latest scheme
would take most of the corporate kicker
without providing any corporate tax relief.
What is certain is that we have seen neither
written plans nor critical analysis of any of
those plans. Yet the Democrat leadership is
intent on fast tracking procedure to allow a
vote early next week.
Our purpose is to slow this runaway train
down to provide time to make thoughtful
SB 400 was adopted by the Senate Wednesday
with the minimum 16 votes required to pass.
This measure is an outright collective
bargaining gift to the public employees
unions. It was promoted by the unions as an
employee safety issue. It was strongly opposed
by virtually every county, city, municipality
and service district in Oregon.
I do not believe for a moment that the
management of all the counties, cities,
municipalities and service districts in Oregon
do not care about employee safety.
SB 426 was passed by the Senate yesterday
on a straight party line vote. This bill would
create a statewide insurance pool for K-12 and
community college employees.
Although it would exclude four school
districts the pool would be mandatory for all
other districts creating a virtual monopoly.
The insurance pool would be governed by a
board of directors made up almost exclusively
of public employees that would be insured by
the pool. This is nearly identical to the
former structure of the PERS board that came
close to bankrupting Oregon.
About 85 % of the school employee contracts
provide that any reduction in insurance
premiums will first be applied to reduce the
employees’ contribution to that premium. If SB
426 did result in savings virtually all of
that savings would go directly to the
employees rather than to the taxpayer.
One hundred and ninety seven school
districts provided spread sheets demonstrating
that the insurance pool as proposed will
actually increase costs to taxpayers by tens
of million dollars. The public employees
provided studies from other states that
suggest the insurance pool could save tens of
million dollars. Senate Republicans’ made a
motion to refer the measure back to committee
for an independent actuarial analysis, or at
least an analysis by our own Legislative
Fiscal Office. The motion was denied on a
party line vote. We were then forced to vote
on this bill without any resolution of these
conflicting claims. The measure then passed
out of the Senate on a straight partisan vote.
Hard times call for hard decisions. Denying
the Democratic majority a quorum to do
business may have significant political
repercussions. However, it was necessary to
call attention to current practices that place
politics above good public policy.
Please feel free to contact our office at
any time and let your voice be heard.