On a strict party line vote, the Oregon Senate has approved what Republicans called an woefully inadequate approach to reforming the state’s Public Employee Retirement System. The Democrats say anything more severe than what they approved probably won’t get Supreme Court approval.
Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-OR Favors cutting Social Security Benefits
U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader, D-OR, has turned out to be the only Oregon federal lawmaker who favors reducing Social Security benefits as part of a package to try to win GOP votes to adopt a federal budget. Even Oregon’s lone Republican Congressman Greg Walden says he opposes the cuts citing hardships it would put on America’s seniors. The full story is in the Oregonian. Click here.
Washington, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after President Obama sent his 2014 budget request to Congress:
“This budget has both strengths and weaknesses.
“A strength is its investment in infrastructure and education. The president is right to emphasize rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure now when borrowing costs are low and construction can put a lot of people to work. The president is also on the right track in proposing investment in early childhood education and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. We must do more, however, to support k-12 education and to make college more affordable.
“Over the last 15 years we have lost 5 million manufacturing jobs and more than 40,000 factories in America. We must reverse that trend – if we don’t make things in America, we won’t have a middle class in America. That is why I am glad the President has proposed creating manufacturing innovation institutes to create private and public sector partnerships to bring manufacturing jobs to parts of the country that have suffered these job losses.
“However, I strongly disagree with the idea of applying the so-called ‘chained CPI’ to Social Security. ‘Chained CPI’ is DC-speak for cutting the hard-earned benefits for seniors who have worked their whole lives. There’s a view among some in Washington that we have been too generous to our seniors. They are dead wrong. Seniors receive an average of $1,200 a month from Social Security. For more than half of our seniors Social Security constitutes a majority of their income. We should be using a cost-of-living index that accurately reflects the real costs seniors face, not cutting cost-of-living adjustments that are already too low.”
Coast Rep. David Gomberg Addressing Newport Chamber of Commerce Friday at Shilo Inn
Addressing the Friday luncheon of the Newport Chamber of Commerce Friday, Coast Rep. David Gomberg said one of the biggest issues facing the legislature is getting more funding for K-12 Education. He said the critical question is, where is the money going to come from? At the moment, he said the target seems to be the Public Employment Retirement System by removing out of state income tax supplement payments to retirees who don’t pay personal income tax in the state they live, limiting cost of living allowances based on the size of one’s retirement check and others. And of course, raising taxes.
Gomberg said robbing Peter to pay Paul on K-12 funding is not the way to go. He told chamber members there are many Oregonians who haven’t paid state income taxes in years. There are also back taxes owed, still on the books and tax credits and incentives being given to green energy generators, some of whom are receiving excessive benefits – these and more totaling over a billion dollars that are still on the table. He said the Oregon Department of Justice should sue the Wall Street banks and investment houses who defrauded Oregon’s retirement accounts out of $150 million in connection with the Wall Street crash. “We ought to go after that money before we hit up PERS retirees and the taxpayers,” Gomberg said.
Gomberg said Oregon’s commercial and recreation fishing industries were recently abused in Salem when the staff of the Land Conservation and Development Commission, after three years of public hearings and recommendations on where to put wave energy machines, surprised everyone by insisting another area be added to the fishing grounds withdrawal list without conferring with anyone – an area of Pacific City in the Netarts area. Gomberg said the move was unexpected and flies in the face of all the hard work completed up and down the coast by the fishing industry, wave energy interests and local government leaders constructing the now complete Territorial Sea Plan.
Gomberg said he has a few bills that he’s introduced which include requiring that any salmon sold in Oregon should be labeled whether it’s natural salmon versus genetically modified salmon (GMO). Another bill – local brewers like Rogue Ale should be able to retail sell their beer in more than just one other location. Gomberg said it should be at least five. Another bill – setting aside funds to ensure that when the Research Vessel Oceanus is retired that marine scientists can have a replacement craft; not only for the Hatfield Marine Science Center but for other scientific agencies and institutions to use. And finally, a bill that will create a new Oregon license plate that features the Oregon Coast. (more…)
Lincoln County Commission Changing to non-partisan on the November Ballot?
Lincoln County Commissioners Wednesday took a step closer to putting their individual political status for election purposes on the November ballot. They were under the impression that the changing of their jobs to “non-partisan” would be on the May ballot but County Counsel Wayne Belmont said he was reminded such special county issues can only go on even-year special election ballots.
Commissioners re-iterated that by going “non-partisan” on the ballot it would allow up to 25 percent more Lincoln County voters, who are not registered democrats or republicans, to have more involvement in the Primary Election’s “whittling down” process that cuts the candidacy numbers to two per commissioner position heading into the General Election in November. As it is today, only registered democrat or republican candidates can file for a commissioner position for the Primary ballot. If the voters approve the commission seats going non-partisan, everybody gets to vote in the Primary and the General. If the measure passes, the candidates for the 2014 election would all appear on the May 2014 Primary ballot. The two top vote getters for each commissioner position in the Primary would go on to the General in November of 2014. However, if one candidate in the Primary wins a majority of those voting, (50% of the vote plus one) that person does not have to run in the General – they would be considered duly elected to the position starting in January of 2015.
The commissioners received very little testimony for or against making their seats non-partisan and re-announced that there will be another public hearing on the matter next Wednesday, February 20th, 9:30am, at the county commission chambers at the courthouse. If no one raises the preponderance of a fatal flaw to the idea, County Counsel Wayne Belmont is likely to be instructed to create a ballot issue posing the question of commissioner non-partisan elections for the November ballot.
Both commissioners Doug Hunt and Terry Thompson are expected to run for election next year and would be the first county commissioners to come under the new non-partisan procedure if the voters give it a thumbs up this November.
A League of Women Voters member informed the commission that democrat and republican candidacies were historically assigned to the Primary ballot in an effort to give the voters decades ago some idea of the political leanings of the candidates. But again, commissioners say the process unfairly bars independents or others with different party affiliations from running in the Primary, and then having to play catch up as the election heads to November.
“I was pleased that the President’s speech led with the need to reduce our nation’s debt and deficits using a balanced, comprehensive approach—including tax and entitlement reform and spending cuts. That is the best way for us to create the economic certainty necessary for our private industries to want to invest and create American jobs.
“I share the President’s call for the funding of early childhood education, college affordability initiatives and workforce training programs and believe they are integral steps in generating a workforce that is able to out-research, out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world. Comprehensive immigration reform, an all-of-the-above energy policy and investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure are other areas of vital importance if our country is to flourish in the twenty-first century global economy.
“I was disappointed that the President failed to mention how Congress must solve the problems of America’s rural communities, who have been hit harder and longer during our economic recovery. Passing a twenty-first century farm bill, promoting coherent forest policy that preserves healthy forests and rural communities and reforming our guest worker programs are all issues that Congress must address.
“I applaud the President’s announcement of an accelerated withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. Now, we should use that money for nation building here at home. That means making sure that our heroes come home to the jobs and investing in the middle class of the future.
“Tonight, the President laid a broad framework for long-term, long-lasting economic prosperity. Only by working together with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and bipartisan organizations like No Labels, can Congress trust each other, produce results and ensure that our children and grandchildren are left with a better, stronger nation than we inherited.”
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley D-Oregon
Comments from U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley:
“President Obama was absolutely right when he said, ‘A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.’ There is no better program of any kind than a good, living-wage job as a foundation for a successful family.
“The President mentioned many strategies to spur job creation, now and for the future. Let’s have that discussion right now on how we can get our economy back on track. Let’s invest in our infrastructure and put people back to work rebuilding America’s crumbling roads and bridges. Let’s offer low-cost loans for homeowners to make their homes energy-efficient. Let’s hire back the teachers that were laid off during this terrible depression, and help prepare our children for the jobs of the future. And let’s do more to make sure that anyone who works hard can make ends meet, by raising the minimum wage.
“We won’t make America stronger, create jobs, or build for the future by making life tougher for seniors or turning our back on the hungry and hurting. Businesses won’t invest while we’re lurching from cliff to cliff, with uncertainty looming over government policy every few months. It’s time to end the manufactured crises and focus on making this country work for the middle class.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues to move our country forward. Let’s heed the President’s call to work together to focus on creating good jobs now and growth for the future.”
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden D-Oregon
Comments from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden:
“President Obama laid out an economic vision that includes rebuilding our infrastructure, strengthening American manufacturing and overhauling the tax code. If Congress is serious about creating jobs, there is no better place to start than tax reform. Bipartisan tax reforms like the ones I have been working on would create a simpler, more business-friendly tax code that would increase tax revenue without raising tax rates. In fact, we would lower corporate tax rates to make American businesses more competitive – helping businesses to create jobs that pay middle class wages.
I am also pleased that the President supports the principles behind the Student Right to Know Before You Go initiative I’ve drafted with Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla. We need to work together to ensure that parents and students get the most bang for their educational buck. We will soon be reintroducing the legislation to make sure this happens.
President Obama also got it right tonight by highlighting the importance of national infrastructure as a way to create jobs and rebuild our crumbling bridges and highways. You can’t have big league economic growth with a little league transportation system. I have always believed that private investment follows public investment. That is why I’ve teamed up with Senator John Hoeven, R-N.D., to champion the Transportation Regional Infrastructure Project bonds. These bonds, like their predecessors, Build America Bonds, will save local government millions of dollars in financing public works projects. It is time for Congress to build on that success.
It is past time for Congress to take action to address the issue of climate change and the associated health and environmental impacts. Only Congress has sufficient tools to address the global nature of the problem and pursue a solution that will reduce domestic emissions while also keeping us competitive in the world market. I will continue to work to pass laws to address climate change by increasing clean energy use and reducing America’s carbon footprint.”
Governor John Kitzhaber (D)
Comments from Governor John Kitzhaber
“The President delivered a compelling vision for America and a comprehensive plan to grow the middle class. I am proud to be a part of it, and Oregon stands ready to do our part. Our partnership with the administration on health care and education innovations offers a model for federal flexibility and local accountability that can help lead the way to a more prosperous future.”