Gov. Brown’s new solar power orders are a stealth tax.

Gov. Kate Brown must figure that if Barack Obama could govern by executive order, so can she.

So right before she was to head for Germany to attend the United Nations climate talks she imposed new taxes through Executive Orders 17-20 and 17-21 with absolutely no public debate.

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Yeah, higher housing costs!

Brown doesn’t call her Executive Orders a tax. She calls them a direction to the state Department of Business and Consumer Services’ Building Code Division (BCD) to amend the state’s codes with respect to making new residential and commercial structures “solar ready”. She also mandated that all new parking structures for home and commercial buildings be wired for a charger for an electric vehicle by October 2022.

But all this will cost builders extra money, and they will pass those costs on to homebuyers and building users.

So, at a time when the state is struggling with a lack of affordable housing, Gov. Brown is unilaterally imposing additional costs on Oregonians to burnish her credentials with the environmental lobby. Would those now endorsing Brown’s move be as pleased if she had unilaterally eliminated some environmentally- friendly sections of the state’s building code?

There is always a cost associated with retrofitting a building to accommodate solar. With the proper solar ready preparations, these measures may cost less if done at the time of building construction. But the decision on whether to impose a requirement for solar ready structures should be made in a public process.

Building code amendments are typically accomplished by legislative action or the adoption of proposals from the public. Legislative action takes time and requires public hearings. If a member of the public proposes an amendment, the Division insists that proposals:

  1. Be shared with people and organizations that will be impacted.
  2. Be accompanied by substantiating evidence or information to support the change
  3. Include the cost impact the change would have on building construction.

Brown didn’t bother with any of these steps, including projecting costs. She probably doesn’t know what all this is going to cost….or care..

Oregonians should see Brown’s move for what it is, a new tax on homebuyers and a dangerous level of executive overreach.

 

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“I’m sorry” isn’t enough for the UCLA basketball players

Talk about privilege.

UCLAPlayers

UCLA basketball players Cody Riley (L),  LiAngelo Ball (C) and Jalen Hill (R) at a news conference on Nov. 15, 2017.

UCLA freshman basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball and Jalen Hill are hardly run-of-the-mill children. They were recruited to the UCLA not because of their academic promise, but because they were top-notch basketball players. That’s what got them their free ride at the school.

And their detention in Hangzhou China wasn’t because one of them mischievously left a store with a pack of gum without paying for it. Far from it. They were arrested for allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store. Such sunglasses typically run $600 – $2000.

And their heists went beyond that. Chinese police have surveillance footage of the three shoplifting in three, yes three, stores in a high-end shopping center. These guys were on a shoplifting spree.

Anybody else pulling this stuff in China would be in prison. But these guys avoided prison sentences because of their celebrity and the intervention of no less than the President of the United States.

“Everyone’s making it a big deal,” said LiAngelo’s father, LaVar. “It ain’t that big a deal.”

But it was a big deal. And these aren’t naïve college kids from the sticks. For example, LiAngelo’s older brother, Lonzo, is a Los Angeles Lakers point guard and his 16-year-old brother, LaMelo, is a high school sophomore who has already committed to play basketball at UCLA and has launched his own $395 Melo Ball 1 sneakers.

A suspension after the ritualistic “I’m sorry” shouldn’t let these three off the hook. Their basketball careers at UCLA shouldn’t be suspended. They should be over.

Hy·poc·ri·sy in action: Oregon Senate Committee approves appointments by Gov. Brown that will undermine PERS

PERScartoon

Oregon legislators of both parties, with some help from Gov. Kate Brown, took care of their own today (Nov 13) and set up a raid on an already burdened PERS in the process.

The Senate Committee on Rules and Appointments, meeting in a packed Hearing Room B at the State Capitol, approved Gov. Brown’s appointment of two state senators, Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), to high-paying positions on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

committeeHeAringSen. Devlin (L) and Sen. Ferrioli (R) appear before the Senate Committee on Rules and Appointments

The Council is a federally funded panel that provides policy and planning leadership on regional power, fish and wildlife issues. Though the Council is a regional body with representatives from four states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana), Oregon members are considered state employees and take advantage of state benefits, including PERS.

As members of the Legislature, Devlin and Ferrioli are each paid an annual salary of $24,216. At the committee meeting, Ferrioli acknowledged that his new job will be a “lucrative position”. As members of the Council, they will each make $120,000 a year.

Neither man noted that the appointments will also mean big retirement rewards.   Conveniently for Devlin and Ferrioli, they have each been appointed to three-year terms. Lifetime retirement benefits under PERS are designed to provide approximately 45 percent of a state employee’s final average salary at retirement. Final average salary is generally the average of the highest three consecutive years or 1/3 of total salary in the last 36 months of employment.

That means Devlin and Ferrioli will likely end up exploiting PERS for big payouts, potentially rewarding them with hundreds of thousands of extra dollars in benefits. This when PERS is already overwhelmed with billions of dollars in unfunded actuarial liabilities (UAL) and a task force appointed by Brown has just released a report outlining drastic measures that could be taken to partially address the problem.

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Attorney General John Mitchell

“Watch what we do, not what we say,” President Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, told the press at the start of Nixon’s presidency in 1969.  Oregonians should do the same with the constant blathering of Gov. Brown and legislators about PERS’ deplorable financial condition and their determination to address the problem. Words, just words.

Virginia’s Nov. 7 election: rural vs. urban is the story

urbanrural

Democrats sweep in Virginia…as voters reject ‘Trumpism’, “ said OregonLive.

I’m not sure it’s that simple.

If you look at maps that break down election results by county in Virginia you will quickly see that it wasn’t so much Trumpism vs. Liberals as urban vs. rural. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate won by sweeping heavily liberal urban areas, but lost by big margins in rural areas.

It reminds me of statewide Oregon elections.

In 2016, when Kate Brown won the race for governor, her win was derived almost entirely from higher population urban areas, including counties with academic centers, such as the University of Oregon (Lane County) and Oregon State University (Benton County)

brownmap2

BLUE: Kate Brown; RED: Bud Pierce

John Kitzhaber’s 2014 race against Dennis Richardson followed the same pattern:

govenorsracepng

BLUE: Kitzhaber; RED: Richardsonn

Now look at the results of the Nov. 2017 governor’s race in Virginia, where voters chose Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie 54 percent to 45 percent.

votesharemapvirginia

RED: Gillespie    BLUE: Northam

The New York Times reported  that Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam won the race against Republican Ed Gillespie with huge margins in vote-rich metropolitan Virginia, and especially the populous Washington suburbs in Northern Virginia.

For example, in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest county (and where I used to live when working in Wash., D.C.) twice as many voters supported Northam than Gillespie. Northam also carried Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County by more than 23,000 votes — a 20-point spread.

Maps on the New York Times website  also show Northam’s big vote advantages in other urban areas, including Richmond (The State Capitol), Norfolk (Home to the largest U.S. Navy base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, and one of NATO’s two Strategic Command headquarters, Roanoke ( Roanoke College , Hollins University and Virginia Tech  are in the area), and Harrisonburg (home to James Madison University, with an enrollment of 21,000 students).

Northam also did well in southeastern Virginia, where the state’s large black population is heavily concentrate. Northam also comes from Virginia’s eastern shore,

Meanwhile, Gillespie rolled up huge margins in rural areas, sometimes 70-80 percent of the vote. In southwest Virginia’s Scott County, for example, Gillespie took 81.4 percent, Northam 17.7 percent. The problem is all the rural areas couldn’t override Northam’s vote in populous urban areas.  Gillespie’s win got him just 4996 votes in Scott County., while Gillespie’s 67.9 percent win in Fairfax County got him 254,919 votes.

“Rural Virginia, mostly stuck with the GOP brand and backed Gillespie at almost the same levels as Trump,” Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told the New York Times. “However, the problem for the rural areas is that Gillespie didn’t make any inroads in the Urban Crescent, meaning that the more urban and suburban parts of the state trumped the heavily Republican vote in areas such as Southwest Virginia, Southside, and the Shenandoah Valley.

This election suggests that the state’s politics may remain very polarized, with urban areas being very Democratic, suburban and exurban areas leaning Democratic, and rural areas voting heavily Republican.”

In other words, despite the Democrat’s success this week, it’s no sure thing that 2018 will see a Democratic sweep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Say No! Stop Gov. Brown from helping former legislators cash in on PERS

GovBrownFastOne

What, me try to pull a fast one?

Oregon’s Senate Rules Committee needs to straighten up and fly right when it considers proposed appointments by Gov. Kate Brown one week from today.

Brown has nominated Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) to the Northwest Power & Conservation Council, a federally funded panel that provides policy and planning leadership on regional power, fish and wildlife issues.

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the nominations on Nov. 13. It should just say no.

If the two men, neither of whom have power and conservation expertise, are approved for the Council positions, not only will they each make $120,000 a year, but they’ll likely end up exploiting PERS for big payouts. That’s because their pensions will be calculated using their new high salaries, potentially rewarding them with hundreds of thousands of extra dollars. This when PERS is already overwhelmed with billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities.

I remember when smug Enron executives tried to intimidate Oregon Public Utility Commissioners in an effort to secure approval for Enron’s takeover of PGE. Commissioner Joan H. Smith blasted the Enron people at a hearing for assuming Oregonians were simple-minded country bumpkins . “Do you think we all just fell off a turnip truck,” she said.

Gov. Brown must think the members of the Senate Rules Committee just did.

Members of the Senate Interim Committee on Rules and Executive Appointments


Chair Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick
Vice-Chair Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli
Member Senator Lee Beyer
Member Senator Brian Boquist
Member Senator Arnie Roblan

 

Double dealing with PERS: enough of Gov. Brown’s shenanigans

kate-brown-10x8-d383f11824f1b171

What, me two-faced?

What one hand giveth, another taketh away.

Gov. Kate Brown knows how it works.

Just as a task force she appointed puts out a report on how PERS’ massive unfunded actuarial liability (UAL) might be reduced, Brown appoints two legislators to jobs that will drain PERS of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Task Force, which Brown charged with identifying options to generate additional funding to reduce the PERS UAL by up to $5 billion over the next five years, issued its report yesterday (Nov. 1). Ideas put forward in the report to generate revenue for PERS , which would impact all Oregonians, include:

  • Privatize state universities
  • Sell surplus port and airport property
  • Sell additional Common School Fund land assets
  • Expand the types of gaming the Oregon Lottery offers and direct revenue from these new options toward PERS
  • Impose a charge for new water rights based on market prices.
  • Sell or do an IPO of SAIF
  • Institute more aggressive foreclosures on properties with property tax and other liens (“Cities could use their own discretion to use the streamlined process (in order to make sure they don’t evict 85-year old grandmothers,” the report notes.)
  • Increase OLCC’s flexibility to operate the spirits business to maximize profits; Increase alcohol licensing fees and excise taxes on beer and wine; impose a surcharge on all distilled spirit (liquor) sales in Oregon, calculated as a percentage of the retail sales price (e.g., 1%, 5%, or 10%).

While all this revenue-raising analysis is going on, Gov. Brown is proposing to undermine PERS’ financial health by conspiring with Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) to enrich the legislators, fleece PERS and drive up the costs of PERS payers, such as schools and local governments.

As I’ve pointed out previously, on Oct. 23, Brown nominated Devlin and Ferrioli to the Northwest Power & Conservation Council, a federally funded panel that provides policy and planning leadership on regional power, fish and wildlife issues. The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the nominations on Nov. 13.

The council positions come with a $120,000 annual salary, substantially more than Devlin and Ferrioli have been making from their legislative salaries.

Furthermore, as The Oregonian’s Ted Sickinger reported this past week, both men will likely end up raiding PERS for big payouts.

The jobs “…will allow both legislators to double dip, turbocharge their public pensions, or both,” Sickinger reported.

As Sickinger explained it:

“Ferrioli already draws a $33,083 annual pension from the Public Employees Retirement System. That benefit stems from 6½ years working for the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs in the late ’70s and early ’80s…And because he is already at retirement age, he is allowed to double dip, continuing to collect it while working full time at the council.

Meanwhile, Ferrioli is eligible for a separate pension for his 20 years of legislative service. And if his Senate colleagues confirm him to the new position, that pension will be calculated using his new higher salary and the extra years of service he earns at the power council, according to PERS.

It’s unclear how much service credit Ferrioli earned during his years at the Legislature, given the part-time work. But assuming he sticks with the job for the first three-year term, the new salary could quintuple his legislative pension, which could translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra benefits over the course of his retirement (emphasis mine). And he could start drawing that while continuing to work at the council.

Devlin, too, could see a similar multiplier in his legislative pension if confirmed. He, too, has 20 years of legislative service and is eligible to start drawing his pension. But if he holds off, the new salary and service at the power council would balloon those benefits after three years.”

This brazen attempt to exploit PERS when it is already suffering from billions in unfunded liabilities needs to be cut off at the pass.

If they want to maintain their reputations as public servants, Devlin and Ferrioli should either decline the Council appointments or they should refuse any additional PERS benefits that may arise because of them.

And Gov. Brown and the Legislature need to put a stop to this practice of raiding PERS to enrich former Legislators. It’s time to stop taking Oregonians for rubes.