It's pretty hard to keep these short and simple.  Most short and simple solutions have already been done, don't work, or are illegal. Here are some thumbnails of what I want to accomplish on some major issues for the state.

These are not big, dramatic calls for billions of dollars in investment or drastic cuts.  They are the kinds of things that can be done now, with what we have on hand.  

If you are at all concerned about climate change, you know that Cap-and-Trade is a critical component.  The legislature has wrestled with it for years and their best minds have produced SB 1070 which leaves many details for three different boards to decide except one -- they want to give the rights to produce green house gasses to the utilities for free.

What if they gave it to us?  What if they give each of us our own share of the air and let us decide if want to sell it and pocket the money or donate it to schools, or just do nothing and further reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?

WhY this is better?

  • It is not a revenue bill, it is a property right, and does not require a 3/5ths majority to pass.
  • It establishes basic income support, a concept we need if we are going to address increased automation in trucking, manufacturing and other fields.
  • It is a new alternative that can change policy negotiations in Salem.

How is this worse?

  • It does nothing for the state budget because it is not a revenue bill.
  • Does not contribute to the state highway fund.

What other changes are needed?

  • One board to make the auction rules.
  • Experts on auction design on that board, not just interest groups.
  • Limited accumulation of allowances.
  • Floors and caps on allowance prices that increase year-by-year.
  • A safety valve that allows the state to buy allowances at the floor price and sell them at the cap.

Oregon distributes funding for schools approximately equally across the state.  It is the same amount per student no matter where you are.  There are some modifications for some high cost students, small high schools, poverty, but it is very close to equal (ORS 327.008).  If costs are the same across the state -- class size would be the same.

The problem is costs are not same.  Salary costs are not the same. Kids in higher poverty, high cost, areas like Parkrose have larger class sizes than elsewhere in the state. Equal funding allocation across the state does not mean equal treatment for kids.

What if we altered the funding formula, just slightly, to take into account a fraction of these salary differences and treat kids more equally across the state?

Why is this better?

  • It is called a cost sharing contract and we already use it for school transportation funding.
  • Hard to argue against cost sharing when we already use it for part of school funding.
  • It will not give you identical class sizes, but it does tilt the balance toward equality.

How is this worse?

  • There are slightly lessened incentives to control costs.

What other Changes are needed?

  • More stable insurance costs.
  • More stable retirement costs.
  • More stable funding.

Every budget season we hear from legislators how the amount of money going to K12 education is higher than it has was before, and every budget season we hear from the schools that the amount that they have to spend on today's kids is less than it was before.  

The difference is Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and the bulk of that difference is because we didn't fund retirement in the 90s. We are still paying for kids that graduated more 20 years ago and people that retired a decade ago.  The state gives the school districts money make up the difference and then has them hand it over to PERS. 

What if we cut the middle man, the school districts, and had two pots of money in the state budget, one for today's students and employees, and another pot for those that have already graduated and retired? 

WHY IS THIS BETTER?

  • Less confusion and few mixed messages.
  • It creates a mechanism for the state to directly, and explicitly, fund the PERS deficit.

HOW IS this WORSE?

  • The PERS rate varies by district and there is bound to be winners and losers once the money does not pass through the districts.
  • There will likely be demands to change the K12 funding formula to reflect this change.

WHAT OTHER CHANGES ARE NEEDED?

  • I have another proposal for that further down.

When people think of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) they frequently think everyone gets the same retirement and they remember the stories of TIER 1 employees getting paid more retired than working. There are actually three systems,  in decreasing richness, but they are all pension plus savings plans. Everyone hired since 2003 has been in the lowest tier, Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan (OPSRP), but there are still people in the more expensive TIER 1 and TIER 2 plans.

The retirement system is different, but the salaries are the same.

What if we required all state labor contract to have a separate salary table for TIER 1, 2, and OPSRP and allow employees to choose to move from TIER 1 and 2 down to OPSRP?  It would take higher salaries to induce people to shift, but some would.

WHY IS THIS BETTER?

  • The bulk of the PERS deficit is because of TIER 1 people that have already retired, but this can cut the retirement costs of those that have yet to retire.
  • There are a lot of government workers that were too young to be in Tier 1 or 2. This could provide some inter-generational equity.  

HOW IS this WORSE?

  • Some people may make themselves worse off.

WHAT OTHER CHANGES ARE NEEDED?

  • The state budget needs to make direct contributions to PERS solvency to pay from the services it bought in the 90s.
  • This hole is 40 years in the making and will not be solved with a few rule changes.