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Taxpayer Association of Oregon 2004 Waste Watch Report
Kulongoski taxes seniors
as Hollywood & baseball get tax breaks.
The 2003 Legislative Session ended with new tax increases for seniors and new tax breaks for trendy political pet programs. Governor Kulongoski signed into law a billion dollar tax increase that included taking away medical deductions for thousands of seniors. The tax also included cutting the early property tax payment savings in half – which is used heavily by elderly homeowners (HB 2152).
While Kulongoski was raising taxes on seniors, he also approved giving Hollywood companies up to a quarter million in tax breaks for shooting a movie in Oregon (see SB 2747). Nothing says long-term jobs for Oregonians like a 6-month movie shoot from California.
Kulongoski also approved a bill allowing baseball players to divert their income taxes away from schools, police, and fire, and use it instead to fund a ballpark (Senate Bill 5). A private toy business can’t dedicate their employee taxes to building a bigger factory, so why then should baseball players get special privileges? Furthermore, rural Oregon should not have to give up their tax revenue to pay for Hollywood/baseball programs that primarily benefit only one county.
Our tax code needs to become more fair, flat, and simple, rather than a misbalanced hybrid that caters to pork programs while overburdening the general tax population.
Kulongoski championed the $450,000 spent for a local advertising firm to come up with the new Oregon slogan, “We love dreamers”. Thanks to Lars Larson and others, the motto spurred a series of alternative slogans such as “We tax dreamers”, “Oregon, where private property rights are for dreamers” and “My government spent $450,000 and all I got was this lousy slogan.” Kulongoski followed this action by signing a hotel tax increase (HB 2267) and advocating a gas tax to help capture tax revenue from the untold scores of tourists that would flock to Oregon because of our dashing new slogan.
Millions in education spending questioned .
Millions of dollars in education spending on contracts is being called into question by state auditors and budget critics. The Dept. of Education spent close to a half million dollars on contracts and deals with a powerful lobby organization called the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA). Audits found contracts being awarded without any competitive bidding. Sometimes contracts were sealed after the work had been completed. One sample showed 23% of the contracts had missing documentation. COSA received $75,000 for a conference already held. One COSA contract for $63,000 was scrutinized for not being able to produce the report that was part of the contract.
Auditors found state contracting violations 64% of the time when the vendor was a school association organization like COSA. (State Audit 5-12-03 & School Talk, Brainstorm Magazine 7-03)
The Portland School District paid consultant Ed Hamilton $95,000 to find the district a school superintendent who never materialized. The district finally hired their interim director who had been serving for several months, for which Hamilton billed the district another $11,000 (Portland Tribune 11-4-03).
The Beaverton School District spent nearly $20,000 on 14 one-slice pizza slicers at $1,425 each. Many of the pizza slicers do not work (Brainstorm Magazine, Lars Larson report 3-04).
Politicians erect buildings of uselessness.
After spending millions in taxpayer dollars to build a data archive center in central Oregon, the center is now being criticized for being ineffective. Few agencies use the center, as many find it too expensive or incompatible. The center could only back-up limited data –which didn’t include mainframe computer data and email. State auditors note that the center was built to tailor to the needs of certain agencies that never had plans to use it in the first place (State Audit June 3-2003).
The Portland Development Commission was involved in a huge renovation of a building into a Creative Service Center to attract scores of high-tech high-paying jobs. The building project remains a flop, with most of the seven floors remaining vacant. To fix the problem, the Portland Development Commission plans to move its 170 employees into the building. (Portland Tribune 2-2704 & the Oregonian 12-9-03)
In Eugene, residents are complaining about a quarter million dollar renovation of the Eugene Outdoor Program building at a time when services are being cut.
(Eugene Register Guard 11-23-03).
Buildings that don’t exist.
The Oregon Parks Dept. was criticized by State auditors for poor management of assets. Auditors had problems verifying up to 71% of buildings owned by the Parks Department. Sometimes buildings listed no longer existed. Audits also noted that inventory employees were unlawfully given authority to purchase and dispose of state assets (State Audit 7-31-03).
Therapist needs financial therapy
State Auditors criticized the former Physical Therapist Licensing Board Director of mis-use of vacation time/leave time, personal use of state computers and telephones, and increasing her salary on multiple occasions without board approval. (State Audit June-9-03)
Public employee growth outpaces population
With growth comes strange bonuses, questionable positions and lots of cell phone privileges.
Oregon public employee growth grew faster than population from 1993 to 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Total number of state, local and national public employees in Oregon is currently 183,390. During 2003, Oregon’s joblessness hit a 17-year high and continued to be ranked the highest in the nation.
County Employees get stay-at-home bonuses.
Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn offered full days pay to workers who did not show up to work during the January snow storm. Linn made the decision without authorization and without consulting her colleagues.
Employee cell phones ring cha-ching! ca-ching!
A Portland audit report recommended reducing city employee cell phones. A year after the report, the city did the exact opposite by increasing cell phones. Now, one of every five city employees has one, costing taxpayers $563,000. Multnomah County recently doubled the number of issued cell phones to employees (Willamette Week: Keeper Cells 2003)
Public employees get 70% raise.
In the midst of Oregon’s recession, the Blue Mountain Faculty Association of Pendleton was able to get 70% salary increases for part-time faculty members.
Un-essential positions with big price tags.
The Albany Democrat Herald questioned many of the job openings in state government, which included a Multicultural Health Services Coordinator ($42,500), an Organization Improvement Coordinator for DEQ ($59,700), and a Public Affairs Director for the Corrections Dept. ($72,000). The Herald wondered the necessity of such positions during tight budget times (Democrat Herald 11-1803).
Police problems in Phoenix.
An internal investigation of the Phoenix Police Department alleges improper use of a police vehicle and sloppy police work. The investigation cites many examples of a particular officer using his unmarked police vehicle during fishing and exercise. Complaints have been made over officer’s showing up late and leaving early. Medford Mail Tribune 12-28-03
Welfare without verification.
State Auditors found 2,000 people who were receiving welfare benefits with no social security numbers to verify their eligibility. The department has responded by fixing the computer glitch that caused the error. State Audit 4-29-03
-- Internal auditors showed that the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs underestimated a storage project by $1.3 million.
-- Dept. of Transportation may have overpaid $2.5 million in contracting jobs where one contractor held all 16 contractors.
-- Judicial Dept. catch a $62,000 over-billing by a defense attorney.
(State Audit 3-12-03)