The Bulletin Editorial Board
The two leading candidates for governor, Republican Knute Buehler of Bend and incumbent Democrat Kate Brown, both came out with plans for Oregon’s lackluster education system this summer. Only Buehler offered a way to pay for them. Brown has largely stayed silent on that subject. She would, for example, increase funding so that more low-income children could go to preschool. It’s a good idea, to be sure. But Brown hasn’t said where the money will come from, other than from the state budget. Buehler is far more specific than Brown. He would boost state education funding by 15 percent, and he would pay for it by reforming the state’s Public Employees Retirement System. It’s great to have good ideas about improving Oregon’s education. It’s even better to have a plan to pay for those improvements.
The Oregonian Editorial Board
Nowhere does Brown address one of education’s biggest threats: the increasingly massive chunk of school district dollars that go to employees’ pensions rather than to students’ education. And until state leaders enact reforms that restructure Oregon’s unsustainable public employees retirement system going forward, they are unlikely to find the revenue – or support for new taxes – to make the game-changing investments that Oregon students need. This is a reality that Buehler tackles head on in the education platform that he released. He states up front his support for requiring employees to redirect contributions from individual accounts to the pension fund and other reforms that would free up dollars to help fund a long list of educational investments. He envisions adding General Fund dollars and, if necessary, seeking new revenue to increase the education budget 15 percent for the first two budget cycles in order to pay for smaller class sizes, a 180-day school year, college classes for high school students, grants for school reading aides and a wide range of teacher supports. Certainly, these are also campaign promises that may or may not materialize if he were to be elected. But it highlights one more uncomfortable truth for Brown. After three and a half years as governor and the de facto superintendent of education, Brown can only offer Oregonians a list of what she’ll do for education as opposed to a strong resume of what she has done. It will be up to Oregonians to decide whether her campaign promises – absent proven educational wins – are enough to secure their vote for another term.
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Leaders of the Oregon Legislature have a blunt response to accusations by the state labor commissioner that they’ve permitted a culture of sexual harassment to fester in the Capitol:
They say policing the Legislature isn’t his job. The response says the Oregon Constitution gives the Legislature sole authority to discipline its own members. While it’s possible BOLI could discipline legislators for their conduct on an individual basis, the document suggests the agency has no authority to levy penalties on the body as a whole.
“BOLI has no constitutional authority to discipline or remove members of the Assembly or to amend the Assembly’s internal policies. BOLI lacks jurisdiction for the redress it seeks because the Oregon Constitution vests exclusive authority over the discipline and oversight of legislators within the legislative chamber those legislators serve in,” Harnden wrote on behalf of the Legislature. “BOLI has limited jurisdiction to seek redress against employees of the legislature or members of the legislature in their individual capacity.” Hardnen emphasized that legislative leadership were taken aback by Avakian’s complaint and said that corrective measures were already in progress. “These issues were already in the open, and corrective measures were substantially and publicly underway before the commissioner’s complaint was filed,” the response states. “It is for this reason that the Assembly is at a loss to understand why the commissioner’s complaint was filed after months of what the legislative leadership believed to be genuine cooperation directly with BOLI and Commissioner Avakian, as well as how the commissioner’s complaint can allege a lack of appropriate action to correct the issues.”
“While our investigation revealed discrete allegations of offensive conduct, we did not find evidence of a widespread toxic work environment or a pattern of discrimination against females or older employees,” wrote Thomas Johnson and Edward Choi, the Perkins Coie lawyers responsible for the report. “While morale is thus unquestionably low at the agency, our investigation did not find evidence of systemic harassment and offensive behavior toward female or older employees, nor were we able to substantiate the allegations of a ‘bro club’ at Business Oregon.” Although investigators didn’t find behavior that met the legal standard for discrimination, they described a clubby male-dominated atmosphere. “What we heard were allegations that male employees are ‘groomed’ for advancement while females seems to have less support from management and fewer promotional opportunities; certain male employees ‘have an in’ with Director Harder by talking sports and going on jogs with him; that men are perceived as having more latitude in the workplace than female employees,” the report says. “Director Harder, the executive team, and other members of management should receive management and communication training to promote an inclusive and professional workplace,” the report said. “Harder and upper management must take on a greater leadership role with respect to improving low employee morale and providing direction for the agency.”
CAMPAIGNS & INITIATIVES
Female elected officials in Oregon now have significant and lengthy track records in office, and they are being forced to defend those records this year. Notably, some of them are facing challenges over their stances on the very issues that have propelled calls for more female candidates around the country: sexual harassment and abortion. Republicans, long out of power in the state, are arguing that liberal female leaders have pushed the state further to the left on social issues, including abortion rights, than many Oregon women would prefer. At the same time, a long-simmering sexual harassment scandal has come to a boil in recent weeks in Salem, the state capital, raising a suggestion from some that women leaders may be no more effective at handling the issue than men.
The annual Labor Day picnic at Portland’s Oaks Park draws thousands of attendees, mostly union members and their families. This year’s event drew Gov. Kate Brown and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton, as well as candidates and incumbents for state, county and city races throughout the region. “This picnic celebrates working families,” Brown said. “It’s the last push before the election season gears up.” Beyond Brown and Bonamici, other speakers on the mainstage included state Treasurer Tobias Read of Beaverton, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Portland, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Should Oregon raise $3 billion a year by taxing C corporations based on their annual sales above $25 million (Measure 97, 2016)? No. “It hits consumers really tough, especially consumers who are already being hammered by the high cost of living in Oregon. And then it really creates a competitive disadvantage for Oregon companies.”
Should Oregon raise $3 billion a year by taxing C corporations based on their annual sales above $25 million (Measure 97, 2016)? Yes. “I support Measure 97 because there is a basic unfairness in our tax system that makes working families pay an increasing share for state and local services, including public schools, senior services, and health care,” Brown said in 2016.
Supporters and opponents made their case for and against Ballot Measure 104 Friday before an editorial board meeting of the Pamplin Media Group. The measure would amend the state Constitution to require a three-fifths majority, or “supermajority,” approval in both the Oregon House of Representatives and Senate for changes to tax expenditures such as credits, exemptions and deductions. If approved, the measure would also require bills containing fee increases — for fishing licenses, for example — have supermajority approval. Given the current makeup of the Democrat-majority Legislature, those measures would require some Republican support to pass. Supporters of Measure 104 say that the measure would encourage bipartisanship and force lawmakers to work together to write legislation that is palatable to three-fifths of lawmakers. Opponents of the measure, on the other hand, say it could intensify a culture of “horse-trading” in the Capitol, and create legislative gridlock. If lawmakers know that just a few votes stand between the measure passing and failing, they could withhold support until they get something else they want, opponents of 104 say.
U.S. GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
The Washington Post
A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead. Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.
William Burck, a lawyer representing Bush, said in a letter to Grassley that the 5,148 documents totaling 42,390 pages retrieved from the National Archives were to be treated as “Committee Confidential,” with access limited to Judiciary Committee members and staff with no public availability, at least for the time being. In the letter to Grassley, Burck said lawyers working on behalf of the former president would determine at a later date which of the documents are “appropriate for public release.”
The Associated Press
Paul Allen, the billionaire Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers owner and Microsoft co-founder, made his largest-ever foray into congressional politics this year by donating $100,000 to a group seeking to keep Republicans in control of the U.S. House. Protect the House is a joint fundraising committee, a type of group that lets wealthy donors make a single large contribution which is then divided among candidates and political-action committees, or PACs, across the country.
Gov. Kate Brown and Rep. Knute Buehler, GOP nominee for governor, have both proposed a mandate for a minimum 180-day school year — in line with the national average. At an average of 162 days (it differs for each school district), Oregon has one of the shortest school years in the nation. The only state law that dictates how long students have to be in class sets a minimum number of instructional hours: 900 for elementary and middle school pupils, 990 for grades 9-11 and 960 for grade 12. Yet neither candidate’s education policy proposal specifically augments the number of instructional hours.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Secure vestibules with intercoms, doors that lock from inside, limited entryways and new fencing are all signs students and parents are likely to notice as they show up for school. The new features are reminders that school districts are stepping up security against mass shootings — particularly in the wake of the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last February. Of the 20-or-so Oregon school districts that responded to questions from OPB, every one of them reported making recent changes to tighten security at school buildings, or they were intending to make them soon.
BUSINESS & LABOR
The Bend Bulletin
“Young people who are graduating with a bachelor’s degree have a lot of really pretty awesome opportunities right now,” said Damon Runberg, a regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department. “(In) the projections we’re seeing for labor demand going out the next couple decades, there will be lots of opportunities in lots of different kinds of occupations,” Runberg said.
The Bend Bulletin
The government is denying more work visas, asking applicants to provide additional information and delaying approvals more frequently than just a year earlier. Hospitals, hotels, technology companies and other businesses say they are now struggling to fill jobs with the foreign workers they need. With foreign hires missing, the employees who remain are being forced to pick up the slack. Seasonal industries like hotels and landscaping are having to turn down customers or provide fewer services. Corporate executives worry about the long-term effect of losing talented engineers and programmers to countries like Canada that are laying out the welcome mat for skilled foreigners.
Today, with the start of the NFL season just four days away, Kaepernick tweeted an image of his face overlaid with the phrase “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” accompanied by the hashtag #JustDoIt. ESPN’s Darren Rovell confirmed that Kaepernick would be part of the company’s campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the slogan. The news of Kaepernick’s campaign has, predictably, prompted a swift backlash from conservatives against Nike.
Nike shares fell more than 2.5 percent in early trading Tuesday amid a backlash that erupted just hours after Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sparked controversy for kneeling during the national anthem, tweeted that he’s starring in the Oregon company’s iconic “Just Do It” ad campaign.
The union, a heavyweight in Oregon politics, sat out the primary and is endorsing Hardesty in advance of the Labor Day picnic at Oaks Park, which serves as a springboard for the fall election season. “I am thrilled to have the support of the Service Employees International Union,” Hardesty says in a statement. “SEIU is known for standing up for progressive values for all workers, and often being the political backbone of so many righteous fights. Together I believe we can take on the issues I know Portlanders are longing for change on: housing, police accountability, climate change and a seat at the table.” Hardesty has the endorsement of Portland Teachers Association from the primary, and Smith had the endorsement of multiple private-sector unions.
The Bulletin Editorial Board
Oregon’s property tax system has problems. That’s so, in part, because of Ballot Measure 50, approved by voters in 1997. It was a third attempt at limiting property taxes, and it did that. It immediately cut taxes, and going forward it established permanent rates, reduced properties’ assessed value, on which taxes are charged, and limited the growth of assessed value. Measure 50 created inequities, however, because it disconnected a property’s assessed value from its real market value and limited growth of the former. As a result, the owners of similar homes in different neighborhoods can have very different tax bills. So far no one has come up with a concrete plan to improve the situation. Lawmakers are talking about it. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, brought it up at a meeting of coast-area lawmakers and others earlier this month. And Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, has been working on the problem for months. Hass did make one suggestion in June. Just refer a measure to voters that asks if they want a fair tax system, he said. Then, when they say yes, lawmakers could go ahead and create the system and let the courts sort it out. One hopes Hass had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when he came up with that one.
Oregon was a national pioneer on land-use planning. It led the way with the Bottle Bill. Its protection of public beach access is legendary. In each case, Oregonians benefited from the state’s landmark legislation. That’s not the case with the carbon tax-and-invest proposal being shaped by a committee of Oregon legislators. Oregon officials might win environmental plaudits for taking action, but the actual atmosphere would hardly notice. In fact, there’s a distinct chance Oregon could worsen the global situation. The catch is that Oregon’s environmental initiatives already are stronger than those in many states and nations. The world, not just Oregon, loses if companies leave the state for less restrictive locales. Or if Oregon companies switch to buying products manufactured — and shipped — under lighter regulations. Transportation is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases. Gov. Kate Brown and other key Democrats are eager for the committee to act. But there should be no rush. Do what is best for Oregon — all of Oregon.
We are currently in a time of unprecedented growth and prosperity. We should be building new infrastructure, reducing class sizes and improving our public spaces — preparing for the future. Instead, we are simply paying for our mistakes of the past. Imagine how much worse it will be during the next downturn in the economy, and the one after that. Buehler’s plan to move PERS from a defined-benefit program to a defined-contribution program is the best long-term solution that has been proposed.
The state Office of Economic Analysis could not have conjured a better illustration of the perversity of Oregon’s kicker law: In 2020, the office’s forecasters predict, Oregon will return $686 million to individual income tax payers — just as the state tips into a recession. It’s the fiscal-policy equivalent of spending your savings on a vacation the week before you need to pay for a kidney transplant. The kicker law could be amended to require that all or a portion of refunds be deposited in the rainy day reserves until they contain savings equal to, say, 15 percent of the general fund, which would amount to about $3 billion. After that threshold of adequacy was reached, kicker refunds to taxpayers would resume. Such an adjustment to the kicker law would ensure that larger-than-expected income tax receipts aren’t immediately spent, and provide refunds to taxpayers once a degree of fiscal stability is achieved.