Today’s Clips – February 7, 2011

Happy Monday!

Worries continue this week for parents, teachers and students across the state as districts prepare to close schools and make other deep cuts.

Governor Kitzhaber’s budget gets more analysis focused on losses of federal funds, sizeable reductions in funding for schools, and increases in tax breaks. Co-speakers Hanna and Roblan get kudos for working together.

The Register Guard has an extensive article ( about the state of Oregon’s unemployed folks — more than 170,000 of ’em.


This week in the Oregon Legislature: plastic bags, virtual schools, handguns and honey
"This week in the Oregon Legislature is full of tough issues that aren’t likely to be resolved after only one public hearing."

School budget woes

House Democrats call Kitzhaber’s K-12 budget inadequate
"The first pushback to Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed budget for schools surfaced today when House Democratic leaders declared it too small. ‘The education budget itself needs work,’ said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who is one of the key lawmakers assigned to draft the final state spending plan for 2011-13."

Around the state districts planning to close schools
"Three school buildings are slated to close in Eugene. Local school administrators have also proposed closing three in Lake Oswego, and three in North Clackamas. Those are just a few of the districts feeling financial pressure, and planning to close school buildings. This week, Governor John Kitzhaber is expected to announce a new education team, charged with encouraging more school closures."

EDITORIAL: The source of the pressure
Register Guard
"Financial pressure on Oregon’s school districts will intensify in the next two-year budget cycle, with dismaying results already becoming visible in Eugene. By some measures, Oregon’s public education system is already one of the nation’s weakest, with class sizes among the largest and a school year among the shortest. The state has engaged in a decades-long program to squeeze school funding, with effects that may have been unintended but clearly are damaging."

How does Oregon pay for schools?
"The way Oregon pays for schools is unique, complicated – and frustrating, state school officials say. Money to support K-12 education comes from state income taxes, the biggest piece of the pie. Money also comes from the state lottery, state forestlands, local revenue and federal funds. Educators say the slippery slope began 20 years ago with voter passage of Measure 5, which capped property tax money for schools."

Springfield delays budget cuts
Register Guard
"The school district budget committee has decided to postpone the pain of crafting a 2011-12 budget as it waits for more information about revenue on the one hand and possible concessions from its unions and additional expenses on the other. The committee, which met this week for a first look at rough figures, saw an $82.5 million spending plan, $3.4 million less than the district’s 2010-11 budget. The bottom line at this early stage: That’s $10 million less than all the expenses the district sees looming."

OPINION: A chance to build on what’s working for our schools
"SUE LEVIN and SUE HILDICK — A few weeks ago, Oregon’s House of Representatives announced that Sara Gelser, a Democrat from Corvallis, and Matt Wingard, a Republican from West Linn, would serve as the co-chairs of the House Education Committee. That puts Gelser and Wingard in an unprecedented position, in a time of unprecedented challenges. Their shared power means that neither the Democratic nor Republican education agenda will automatically move to the fore. Instead, Gelser and Wingard face the challenge of putting together an agenda that’s first and foremost good for kids and one that can find support on both sides of the aisle."

OPINION: A new chance for legislators to enroll in higher ed
"DAVID SARASOHN — Like a seasoned TV reporter, state Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, begins with a couple of sharp, clear numbers. Oregon, he points out, has a median income only 91 percent of the national level. Washington has a median income 106 percent of the national level. Washington doesn’t even have an NBA team. What it does have, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is a perceptibly higher percentage of its population with a four-year college degree, 30.7 percent to Oregon’s 28.1 percent."

Hanna and Roblan = Buddy Act

Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan: The new buddy act running the Oregon House of Representatives
"A hard-driving Republican businessman and a Democratic educator known for his geniality have become the biggest buddy act in Oregon politics as they set off on the difficult task of guiding an evenly divided Oregon House. Democrat Arnie Roblan andRepublican Bruce Hanna are taking turns wielding the gavel as the first House co-speakers in Oregon history."

The politics behind the Hanna-Roblan partnership
Jeff Mapes
"Their ‘buddy act,’ as I termed it, sure seems like it could bring political dividends to both of them.  The last great buddy act in Oregon politics involved Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and the state’s junior senator for 12 years, Republican Gordon Smith. Wyden and Smith started out as opponents who ran against each other in the 1996 Senate special election.  Wyden won, but Smith was then elected to the other Senate seat later that year."

The governor’s budget

As state leaders cut funds federal dollars disappear
"State officials detailed proposed cuts Friday to Oregon’s health and human services budget. The reduced state funding would trigger even bigger reductions in what Oregon gets from the federal government. Oregon’s general fund cut to the Department of Human Services and the state Health Authority totals just over $1.1 billion. But cutting that deeply into state funding means giving up more than $1.6 billion in matching funds from the feds."

After years of growth, Oregon’s budget is set to fall
Statesman Journal
"When Gov. John Kitzhaber put together his state spending proposal for the coming two years, he faced a vastly different landscape than that of his first term, which began in 1995. During the eight budget cycles since then, total state spending has grown between 5 percent and 24 percent each biennium, a Statesman Journal analysis shows."

Overhaul of state agencies starts to build momentum
Mail Tribune
"Local legislators and agency leaders supporting Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed budget say it’s past time for Oregon to overhaul its health care and social services systems. Eliminating redundant programs and strengthening those that provide the best return on their investment is a good first step, said Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford. Bates, a practicing physician, was instrumental in forming the newly launched Oregon Health Authority."

Kitzhaber proposes tax breaks for creating jobs
"Gov. John Kitzhaber’s budget plan awards tens of millions of dollars’ worth of new tax breaks that he hopes will pay off in new economic activity and job creation. The Democratic governor so far has proposed to soften the tax hit on certain investment income, expand a tax credit that provides subsidies for movie and TV shoots in Oregon, and extend a scaled-back version of a business energy tax credit that’s set by law to expire."’

EDITORIAL: The governor’s budget: It’s either reform or bust
"The only way Kitzhaber’s spending blueprint adds up is if Oregonians answer his call for long-overdue changes to restrain costs in education and health care. Gov. John Kitzhaber has produced a budget only a toddler or a state trooper could love. Early childhood education gets a boost and state police get a dedicated funding source, if voters agree. But other essential services get flat funding or a painful structural overhaul, or in the case of schools, both."

Layoffs expected at MacLaren
Woodburn Independent
"The agency that runs MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn will be forced to cut the number of beds by almost 50 percent in the next two years, according to a state budget released this week. On Tuesday, Gov. John Kitzhaber announced the Governor’s Balanced Budget for 2011-2013, making wide-scale cuts to Oregon Youth Authority (OYA), the agency that oversees MacLaren."

EDITORIAL: A new wind
Albany Democrat Herald
"You can tell that a new wind is blowing because of the change of administrations in Salem. Governor Kitzhaber started with a budget that holds the line and calls for no new taxes. Now he has ordered a halt to OWIN, a project to build hundreds of radio towers around the state so that emergency-response agencies could better communicate with each other in a catastrophe."

Oregon lawmakers to consider school energy proposal
The Columbian
"One of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s top environmental and economic priorities will be getting its first review in the Legislature. The House Education Committee is scheduled to begin working on Kitzhaber’s school weatherization plan on Monday. Kitzhaber wants to put people to work by retrofitting schools and other public buildings with modern energy-efficient technology. Supporters of his plan hope to protect the environment while helping schools save money on their energy costs."

Other headlines

Difficult time for Oregon’s underemployed
Register Guard
"Lee Thompson can’t help it. Each day when the 54-year-old Eugene man rides his bicycle home from his part-time job as a sign waver for a mattress store, he stops on a bridge and peers over the railing at what has become — for him — the economic abyss. Every day he sees a new tent pitched inside a blackberry bush down there. Every day he dreads the idea of finding himself sleeping at the Eugene Mission or under a bridge."

Tax changes means checks from PERS likely reduced
Statesman Journal
"A retired state worker called in early last week, perturbed about his latest PERS payment. The money deposited into his account looked short. A little quick math, and the retiree figured he’d received 5 percent less than usual. He called up PERS to complain and was told that more money was being withheld from his monthly benefit due to changes in the federal and state tax tables."

EDITORIAL: Change in public records law overdue
Statesman Journal
"The public’s business should be conducted in public. That concept is a central pillar of our democracy. But politicians keep carving away at it, finding excuses to shield more and more decisions from public view. State Attorney General John Kroger wants to reverse that trend.

4 Responses to “Today’s Clips – February 7, 2011”

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Today’s Clips – February 8, 2011

Today’s Tuesday! As legislators work on the budget, articles detail the enrollment trends of K-12 and higher education in the state.

Lawmakers discuss school solar retrofits, saying they will pay off. Governor Kitzhaber’s budget is praised and critiqued, and local taxes to support schools seem to have a path forward.

A suit seeks more information about public employee benefits, and Sen. Jeff Merkley is encouraging more flights direct from DC to PDX as a way to spark job creation.

K-12 enrollment steady, community college enrollment growing

Oregon student numbers steady, some local growth
"Oregon’s student enrollment essentially held steady for the 2010-11 school year, and the statewide figure actually dropped slightly, the state Department of Education reported Tuesday. According to counts reported by school districts, Educational Service Districts (ESDs), and State Educational Agencies, Oregon has 561,328 public school students – a slight decrease of 368 students (-0.07%) compared to last year’s total of 561,696."

PCC enrollment growing, despite tighter budget
"Portland Community College says for the 14th straight term, its student population has kept growing, despite a tighter budget. School leaders say the number of students grew by 5 percent during the winter term to more than 43,000. That is a gain of just slightly more than 2,000. PCC says that the news comes as the state officially begins its budgeting process. School leaders say 42 percent of PCC’s general fund comes from the state."

Lawmakers: School solar retrofits would pay off
"Proponents of a plan to put people to work by retrofitting public school buildings with energy efficient technology said Monday the savings in energy costs would help the idea pay for itself. Gov. John Kitzhaber made the concept central to his election campaign last year. On Monday, it got its first review in the Legislature as the House Education Committee held hearings on three proposals to encourage more energy-efficient schools."

Governor’s budget

Kitzhaber budget tone pleases Republicans, worries some Democrats
"In the opening days of Oregon’s legislative session, Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber has set a distinct tone of severe budget austerity and strict political realism — a combination that is drawing praise from Republicans but causing discomfort within his own party. Kitzhaber outlined an agenda that calls for essentially flat spending on most programs, despite increasing demand for state aid."

Governor is cool to school’s local tax
Register Guard
"Gov. John Kitzhaber is concerned about new local taxes for schools — including Eugene’s proposed income tax — but he’s not going to oppose them. The governor summoned Eugene leaders to Salem last week and shared his vision for reforming education. He also expressed caution about independent efforts to raise money for schools separate from future proposals to change school financing statewide, according to people who attended the meeting."

Other headlines

Suit seeks more info on public employees
Statesman Journal
"The Oregon Public Employees Retirement System should be forced to immediately release benefits data about individual retirees because the state’s current fiscal crisis makes the information a matter of "pressing public interest," an attorney for The Oregonian argued Monday in Marion County Circuit Court. The pension that PERS retirees receive "comes out the taxpayers’ pocket, and they have a right to know how it’s spent," Portland attorney Charles F. Hinkle told Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond."

Sen. Jeff Merkley pushes for more flights from Portland to Reagan National Airport to boost jobs
"His personal inconvenience aside, Merkley says the lack of direct flights puts Portland and the region at a disadvantage for attracting business. That’s why he and Sen. Ron Wyden are offering legislation to increase the number of long-haul flights at Reagan National Airport. ‘Oregon is an attractive destination for many businesses with one notable handicap – a shortage of direct flights to the east coast,’ Merkley said in announcing the effort."

Portland school board unanimous: A second school tax hike on the May ballot
"The Portland school board voted 6-0 tonight to put a second tax hike before voters in May, saying a higher operating tax is needed to save 200 teaching jobs in Portland Public Schools. If voters say yes, the local-option property tax set aside to bolster Portland schools would rise to $1.99 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a 60 percent increase from the current $1.25 per $1,000 voters approved in 2006."

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Today’s Clips – February 9, 2011

Wednesday! Schools across the state brace for the worst under Governor Kitzhaber’s public education budget, and school districts urge the state to allow them to opt out of "education service districts."

A forum at Portland State University about higher education restructuring draws a crowd, and concerns.

Legislators also discuss the budget, eliminating the Oregon Department of Energy, an overhaul of state court fees and banning the single-use plastic bag.

Public school funding

Straight talk on school funding
Forest Grove News Times
"Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed budget for K-12 education, released last week, isn’t all that it seems. But neither is some of the criticism that greeted it. When viewed as one large number, the $2.9 billion Kitzhaber would allocate to public schools for 2011-12 is about the same as what the state is providing to districts this year. But citizens and their legislators have to look beyond the $2.9 billion before judging the adequacy of this funding level."

Schools brace for the worst under governor’s public education budget
Forest Grove News Times
"Some have dubbed the morning of Feb. 1, when newly re-minted Gov. John Kitzhaber proposed spending $5.56 billion on K-12 education over the next two years, ‘Black Tuesday.’ From state schools superintendent Susan Castillo, who says Kitzhaber’s budget falls about $1 billion short of what the public schools need, to anxious teachers in Gaston, Banks and Forest Grove, a rallying cry has gone out from Oregon’s campuses."

EDITORIAL: Don’t worry, governor
Register Guard
"Gov. John Kitzhaber won’t oppose the local taxes to support schools that are being discussed in Eugene and elsewhere in Oregon — but he’s not campaigning for them, either. He’s concerned that if some communities find ways to arrest the decline of public education, the push for a statewide school finance reform plan would lose steam. He needn’t worry."

School districts urge state to allow them to ‘opt-out’ of ESDs
Statesman Journal
"School districts could save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year if they were allowed to "opt out" of education service districts, superintendents from across the state told lawmakers Tuesday. ‘In a competitive environment, you can buy services that provide you with what you actually need,’ Baker School District Superintendent Walt Wegener told the Senate Education Committee."

Higher education restructuring forum
Portland State University forum draws crowd and concerns about restructuring the Oregon University System
"Faculty and students raised concerns at a Portland forum Tuesday afternoon about how legislative proposals to restructure the state’s higher education system will affect tuition, professor salaries and academic quality. ‘Are we going to become a factory that just pushes students out the door?’ asked Katie Markey, president of thePortland State University student body and member of a panel addressing proposals to change the governance structure of the Oregon University System."

Public forum addresses potential impact of higher education legislation
"Oregon’s state per-student funding ranks 45th in the country. But as Portland State University president Wim Wiewel put it at a forum Tuesday afternoon, the state ranks #1 in another area: micromanagement of its higher education system. Wiewel’s comments came at a public forum about the impact of legislative proposals to restructure Oregon’s higher education system."


Legislators talk budget at town hall
Siuslaw News
"Sales tax, education among topics at Saturday’s standing-room-only meeting in Florence. It’s the year of ‘firsts’ for the 2011 Oregon Legislature: first time the legislators are meeting annually; first time the House of Representatives has selected co-speakers; and first time the governor was elected to a third term."

Morse floats kicker reform
Gazette Times
"With a massive budget gap confronting the Legislature, Sen. Frank Morse thinks the time may finally be right to pass kicker reform and start setting aside some savings to cushion Oregon against the next recession. On Tuesday, the North Albany Republican introduced legislation that would do both. Senate Joint Resolution 26 would create a four-pronged mechanism designed to build cash reserves when times are good so there’s money available to fill the budget gaps when times are bad."

Lawmakers want to eliminate Oregon Department of Energy
"Some Oregon lawmakers want to pull the plug on the Oregon Department of Energy. The chief House sponsor of the bill to abolish the agency says the proposal is not a response to recent allegations of wrongdoing at the Department. Democratic Representative Jules Bailey wants to spin off much of the Oregon Department of Energy’s regulatory functions into other agencies. And he wants to fold its top-level strategic planning into the governor’s office."

Oregon House panel takes up — and sets aside for now — restructuring the Oregon Department of Energy
"A state House panel on Tuesday explored abolishing theOregon Department of Energy and redistributing its duties. Whether House Bill 2900 comes back for more than a public hearing is uncertain, but its introduction indicates both frustration with the agency and legislators’ willingness to re-think government."

Legislators consider overhaul of state’s court fees
Statesman Journal
"Lawmakers pledged Tuesday to review an overhaul of Oregon’s court fees for civil cases, a system that one lawmaker described as ‘unwieldy and rickety.’ But beneficiaries of the current system, among them legal aid services for the poor and law libraries for counties, urged the House Judiciary Committee to go slow on changes that will affect their shares of court fees."

Plastic bag ban debated

Plastic bag ban debated in Salem
Register Guard
"The manufacturers negatively affected by Oregon’s proposed plastic bag ban made it clear Tuesday that they’re not going down without a fight, sending in executives and lobbyists from out of state to testify against such a proposal. But their move was matched by a paper industry giant that dispatched its own executive to speak on the bill’s behalf."

Plastics industry steps up opposition to bag ban
Statesman Journal
"Opponents of a statewide ban on plastic checkout bags said Tuesday they will push for an alternative measure that would promote recycling and prohibit Oregon cities from banning plastic bags. The plastics industry stepped up its efforts to defend its product as the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee listened to arguments about the proposal."

Plastic bag ban debate: Green milestone for oregon or a new tax on groceries?
"Banning plastic checkout bags would either write another proud chapter in Oregon’s green heritage or create a costly and even potentially hazardous nuisance for consumers, state legislators heard Tuesday. Business lobbyists, environmental activists and taxpayer advocates packed a Senate committee hearing into the evening to present widely divergent views on what is shaping up as the top environmental issue of the session."

If Oregon bans plastic bags, a Beaverton paper sack plant has a handle on the situation
"You’d think it’s good times for the nation’s paper bag producers, what with plastic sacks on the run from environmentalists, politicians and picky shoppers. The bill pending in the Oregon Legislature to ban one-time-use plastic bags is an example of the heat generated in the ‘paper or plastic’ debate. But International Paper, which has a grocery sack manufacturing plant on Southwest Western Avenue in Beaverton, isn’t about to sit back and let the legislation ride."

Other headlines

Pressed for success: Self-employed by necessity, a divorced mother of two says failure isn’t an option
"’I’d been there 10 years and saw the signs,’ she said. ‘I was the one who shut down the classified department, got rid of the web editor and demoted the receptionist.’ In June, it was McKeown’s turn: She was laid off as general manager ofWillamette Week, a Portland alternative newspaper. As the divorced mother of two boys — Thilo, 7, and Cian, 5 — she needed to find something else. After months of planning, she opened a business, Oui Presse coffee shop on Portland’s Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard."

Working parents rally for help with child care costs
Public News Service
"Lower-income parents in Oregon are looking to state lawmakers to help them afford child care so they can keep their jobs. Advocates for these families will gather on Wednesday at noon at the State Capitol. The ‘Rally to Save Employment Related Daycare’ (ERDC) will focus on Gov. Kitzhaber’s recent proposal to increase the number of families in the program from 10,000 to 11,000."

Budget frills? What are Washington and Oregon buying that Idaho isn’t?
"Here’s an unusual sales pitch: ‘We don’t offer many bells and whistles.’ That’s how Idaho’s Republican Governor Butch Otter sells his state. He’s proud of a no-frills government. It’s a sharp contrast to Washington and Oregon with comparatively generous social services. So as all three states get ready to cut, what do Washington and Oregon offer that Idaho doesn’t?"

Why Oregon personal income limps behind the nation
Oregon Business Report
"Oregon’s per capita personal income, the annual sum of all resident income in the state divided by the number of residents, was $36,125 in 2009. That’s 8.8 percent less than the national figure of $39,626. Oregon’s per capita personal income gap with the nation has generally been growing since 1996 and the growing gap concerns state policy makers and economists. Although there are many causes of Oregon’s low PCPI, there are no easy solutions to reduce the gap."

One Response to “Today’s Clips – February 9, 2011”

  1. Anonymous

    I think it is time for the 90% of us still working in Oregon to stand up and say we are willing to pay more to support the poor, under and unemployed and kids. Cuts now are hurting those who can least afford it and with the state revenue paid from income taxes, cutting more workers from state and local governments and schools just guarantees a some deficit for the next budget round. Now I’m not for a permanent hike but a temporary tax surcharge that maintains this years state revenue levels. Also a limit to the tax of 3 to 5 years and a built in decrease as state revenue increases.

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