appointments as vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee, to the
Ways and Means Committee and the Emergency Board, as well as
to the Task Force on Tort Liability will continue to keep Gail
and me on the road to Salem. Those appointments, in addition
to the Office of Administrative Hearings Oversight Committee
and the Committees on Court Facilities and Court Technologies
are keeping us immersed in legislative action during this
legislative interim. In fact, the trip to Salem is beginning
to feel like a commute.
CARBON CAP AND TRADE LEGISLATION
week the Warner Lieberman carbon cap and trade bill died a
quiet and deserving death in the United States Senate.
Thankfully, the Senate democrat leadership was unable to
secure a majority vote, in support of what would have been,
the greatest scheme to redistribute wealth since the federal
Warner Lieberman bill was designed to place a top limit on the
total amount of carbon allowed to be emitted each year in the
United States. That limit would be reduced, become more
restrictive, with each successive year over the next several
cap on carbon emissions was supposed to have been an incentive
to encourage investments in conservation and alternative
sources of energy that would have resulted in reduced carbon
Under this bill, United States companies would have been
required to purchase the right to emit carbon into the
atmosphere. These carbon emission credits could then be traded
among companies. Those companies that emitted less carbon
could trade their credits to companies that emitted more
carbon. The scheme was supposed to be an incentive to emit
less carbon by giving those companies that reduce their
emissions a competitive advantage.
certain outcome of the cap and trade bill would have been to
unilaterally increase energy prices in the United State, each
year, sequentially, for decades. Moreover, the bill would have
authorized Congress to sell nearly three and one half trillion
dollars worth of carbon credits. Further, it would have
authorized the distribution of an additional nearly three and
one half trillion dollars worth of carbon credits to states
that are recognized as leaders in greenhouse gas control,
potentially to some Indian Tribes, and to other favored
These favored entities, selected by political leaders, could
then sell their windfall of carbon credits for as much as
three and one half trillion dollars in cold hard cash.
These sales of carbon credits would have amounted to a direct
tax on the cost of doing business in the United States. The
recipients of the nearly seven trillion dollars in cost of
doing business tax revenue would have been the federal
government, certain state governments, and certain favored
Obviously, this scheme would have put the United States at a
terrible competitive disadvantage with other nations, such as
China and India, who make little effort to control carbon
emissions. It would have significantly increased the cost of
doing business in the United States, and because all
businesses must pass their costs on to their consumers in
order to stay in business, the end result of the scheme would
have been to create huge inflationary pressures on our U.S.
irony of this scheme is that the federal government and the
states would not be required to offset existing taxes or fees
with this seven trillion dollar revenue windfall. Other
favored political allies would have no restriction on how
their windfall of revenue would be spent either. Instead, they
would be allowed to spend the money on additional and expanded
social programs. Ultimately, the Warner Lieberman bill would
have resulted in around seven trillion dollars in wealth
the Wall Street journal editorialized, the cap and trade
policy sounds more like a tax and spend policy.
Unfortunately, in politics no bad bill is ever dead. Governor
Kulongoski has now unveiled his own carbon cap and trade plan
that he plans to introduce in the 2009 Legislative session.
His scheme appears to have many of the same bells and whistles
that were found in the failed Warner Lieberman bill.
understand his scheme, the carbon cap and trade bill will
create a windfall of revenue for Oregon politicians. It will
certainly result in significant redistribution of wealth. It
will unilaterally inflate the cost of doing business within
Oregon. This artificial cost increase will put Oregon
businesses at a terrible competitive disadvantage with other
states and other nations. Watch for a mass exodus of
businesses from our state if this proposed legislation should
be enacted into law.
E-BOARD AND THE ECONOMIC FORECAST
The Ways and Means Committee does not have authority to make
changes in the state budget. That authority requires the
majority vote of both legislative chambers. For that reason,
the Oregon Legislature created the Emergency Board to
authorize needed budget changes when the Legislature is not in
session. Prior to the creation of this very powerful E-Board,
the Legislature had to be called into special session to
authorize such changes.
The 2007 economic forecast predicted that the Legislature
would have at least $2.5 billion dollars more revenue
available to spend than any previous legislature. That
economic forecast was admittedly only accurate within plus or
minus one billion dollars. As a specific example of previous
accuracy in predictions, the 2005 economic forecast predicted
$1.2 billion less revenue than actually was available. This
huge error in forecast resulted in the largest kicker refund
in Oregon history.
In our Oregon legislature, spending bills only require a
majority vote. The Democrat party held the majority in both
legislative chambers during the 2007 and 2008 sessions.
Unfortunately, the majority leadership chose to authorize
spending virtually all of that predicted $2.5 billion excess
plus another $600 million in increased fees charges and
Those of us who cautioned fiscal responsibility, because that
money might not actually be available, were simply outvoted.
Our pleas to put some of that money into savings, and retain
more in our ending balance, were ignored. Instead, the
leadership voted to keep the corporate kicker credit and use
that purloined money to establish a “rainy day fund”. To their
credit they did add significant money to the education reserve
fund. However, their promise to put any money left unspent at
the end of the budget cycle into the rainy day fund was as
empty as a family’s savings account who plan to save only the
money the choose not to spend.
The legislature’s unprecedented spending spree amounted to an
increase of nearly $1,000 in government spending for every man
woman and child in the state of Oregon. On average, every
state agency was provided at least a 20% increase in spending
authority resulting in one of the largest expansions in public
employment in state history. Now it appears, that due to the
current economic downturn, some of that predicted additional
revenue may not be available to spend.
The problem is that the spending of the money has already been
authorized even though it very likely may not be available to
spend. For that reason, it appears that the E-Board may be
very busy during the remainder of this interim between
For instance, the legislature authorized $125 million to
increase compensation for public employees, but charged the
E-Board with the responsibility of not releasing the funds
until the revenue was collected.
Governor Kulongoski authorized labor contracts to be
negotiated and signed as though the money was already in the
bank. Kulongoski also promised about 60 agency directors a 24%
pay raise on average. Moreover, he promised nearly 5,000
middle level managers a 16% increase in pay on average.
These signed contracts, and governor’s promises, total more
than $350 million in public employee pay raises for this
budget cycle. The roll up costs, what those pay raises will
cost in the 2009-2011 budget cycle, exceed $650 million. To
put those pay increases into perspective, in the next budget
cycle they will cost the average Oregon family of four about
$350 per year in additional increased taxes, fees, charges, or
During the most recent Ways and Means Committee meeting our
Legislative Fiscal Office predicted that estimated expenses
for the next budget cycle would exceed estimated revenues even
if our economy doesn’t sink into deeper recession. The E-Board
is now presented with the dilemma of how to honor these
grandiose promises and contracts without benefit of sufficient
revenue. The choices appear to be to either reduce government
spending to stay within budget, or to go ahead and spend the
money knowing that the next legislature will have to pass new
taxes to cover the deficit.
As a member of the E-Board, I receive at least one letter,
e-mail, or phone call every day from representatives of the
public employees’ and their unions urging me to support the
pay increase. Even some of the traditional business lobby is
urging the release of these funds to increase public employee
compensation, urging me to support spending money that it
appears we may not have to spend.
Our governor and legislative leadership is telling the media
that our financial position is strong and that citizens should
not worry. But our financial forecasts tell a different story.
In fact, our projected ending balance for the entire 2007-2009
biennium would be virtually wiped out without the one time
revenue windfall that resulted from a massive sale of Nike
My most serious concern is that in this election year the
Democrat majority on the E-Board will bow to the public
employees unions, and give them all they ask for, at the
expense of the Oregon taxpayers.
One third of Oregon high school sophomores are unable to read
at minimal state standards. Moreover, nearly half of our
sophomore students are unable to meet minimal standards in
math and writing skills. In an attempt to compel improvement
on these abysmal teaching outcomes, the Oregon Board of
Education is attempting to create minimal testing requirements
for high school graduation in Oregon. Twenty six other states
currently require that their senior students pass tests that
demonstrate minimal learning achievement in order to earn a
high school diploma.
The old axiom “What does not get measured does not get done”
is certainly true of education. The testing requirements
proposed by the Oregon Board of Education are anything but
draconian. Under the Boards proposal, senior students could
earn their high school diploma following any of three paths.
First the seniors could receive their diploma by passing
currently existing 10th grade benchmarks for math, reading and
writing proficiency. You read that correctly, in order to
graduate, seniors would only be required to do sophomore level
work. What is more, the students would have NINE attempts to
pass these exams, three in each the sophomore, junior and
Second, they could earn a diploma by achieving a certain score
on either of the SAT or ACT national standardized tests that
are required for enrollment in most colleges and universities.
These tests can also be taken more than one time in each the
junior and senior years.
Third, they could achieve a diploma by passing a locally
written assessment in key subjects such as term papers, work
samples or portfolios graded on a statewide standard.
Incredibly, superintendents and teachers across the state have
made it plain that they oppose even these minimal education
achievement standards. The Oregon Education Association has
written their concerns to the Board’s proposal, stating their
strong opposition including that the testing requirements
would likely lower graduation rates. In addition, members of
the Confederation of School Administrators have joined the
opposition stating concerns that students who struggle in one
or more subjects might not be allowed to graduate.
The question that begs asking is “How can we expect students
to be held accountable for their learning achievement, when
their teachers and administrators refuse to be held
accountable for their teaching performance outcomes”? How can
professional educators be satisfied with their teaching
performance standards, when nearly half of their students fail
to achieve minimal math and writing skills, and over one third
cannot even read to grade level? How can professional
educators seriously oppose a graduation standard that only
asks graduating seniors to be able to perform sophomore grade
We have many fine and talented teachers and administrators in
Oregon. But their statewide organizations refuse to either
accept, or address, accountability for unacceptable education
outcomes. They are able to maintain the abysmal status quo
through the actions of their well heeled lobby efforts, and by
their ability to place their own members into offices at the
highest level of state government.
All monopolies have certain characteristics, including lack of
performance accountability, poor standard of service,
uncompetitive costs, lack of innovation, and a morbid fear of
competition. In my opinion, the Oregon K-12 education
enterprise represents a monopoly in every respect.
do not see that sad reality changing until the people, the
parents, recognize it for what it is, and demand change. That
change will not occur until parents have a choice where their
children will attend school.
Oregon desperately needs open enrollment, where a child may
attend any public school of the parents’ choice. Oregon
desperately needs a system of vouchers, where the tax money
provided for the student’s education follows the child to the
school chosen by the students’ parent. Oregon desperately
needs a system of education tax credits that allow the parent
to select the course of their children’s education.
Public education in Oregon currently costs about three times
as much, on average, as it costs for a parent to send their
child to a private school. Yet the education outcomes at most
private schools greatly exceed those of our public schools.
The fact of the matter is that the education outcomes of most
home schooling exceed those of our public schools.
Isn’t it time to ask why? Isn’t it past time to demand that we
measure the outcomes of our public education enterprise?
FIELD CHANGE OF COMMAND
On a more upbeat note, Gail and I were invited to attend the
May 17th Change of Command at Kingsley Field where Colonel
James Miller was assigned to take command of the 173rd Fighter
Wing from Colonel Thomas Scheiss. We are confident that
Colonel Miller will carry on the legacy of excellence of the
173rd Fighter Wing.
Under the command of Colonel Tom Scheiss the
173rd Fighter Wing grew by 1/3rd more F-15’s, by more than
100 personnel, and his command earned the top ranking of all
fighter pilot training missions. The 173rd at Kingsley Field
is simply the best of the best. Tom has been instrumental in
positioning Kingsley Field as a likely base for training
pilots for future generations of fighter aircraft. Eventually,
that transition to newer generation fighters will be required
to maintain the mission in Klamath Falls. We thank Tom for his
career of service to this community, to our military and to
apologize for the length of this newsletter but I do want for
you to have the information.
Remember, if we do not stand up for our rights no one