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Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-302, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us     Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett
March 9, 2007

Dear Friends,

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 decisions.

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.

Best regards,


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