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House Democrats Push for Rainy Day Fund

By the time you read this, the House Democrats will have moved to pull HJR 53 from Committee for an up-or-down vote on the floor. Why should you care? HJR 53 would set up a rainy day fund for the State to help even out its income in good and bad years. To be adopted, it would have to pass both houses of the Legislature, and be approved in a statewide election.

Given that House Republicans ran on the idea of setting up a Rainy Day fund, with an emphasis on former Rep. Dan Doyle’s “bucket plan,” it is surprising that the issue has not come up during this session. There has not yet been a single hearing in the House focused on this issue.

HJR 53, if adopted, would take half of the ending fund balance at the close of each biennium, plus half of the income tax receipts attributable to capital gains, and place those funds in a Rainy Day fund to be spent when it is raining hard. HJR 53 does not change Oregon’s existing spending limits. Any alternative Republican plan that might come out would set artificially low or arbitrary spending limits.

Why did we choose the provisions in HJR 53? The most variable part of the income tax in Oregon is the capital gains tax. In good years, it may generate several hundred million dollars. In bad years, it generates almost nothing. Income from wages, on the other hand, changes much less in response to the economic cycle. Thus, ending fund balances may also swell in good years.

This measure will help establish greater fiscal responsibility and accountability.

During the time Republicans have controlled the House, Oregon has borrowed over $2 billion just to balance budgets. The popular impression that the House Republicans are fiscal conservatives is completely false. They have foisted this huge debt on our grandchildren, as well as the grossly irresponsible tax kicker, while establishing several billion dollars of tax loopholes for their friends.

HJR 53 will make such abuse much harder to do while protecting schools, health care and public safety from the ups and downs of Oregon’s economic cycle.

Stay tuned…

May 25, 2005 by Phil Barnhart
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Great work. And thanks for making this blog!

Posted by: Joseph Santos-Lyons | May 25, 2005 3:59:38 PM

From the House floor.... Our motion to bring a real Rainy Day Fund to Oregon just failed on a party line vote in the House with all Dems in favor and all Republicans opposed. One piece of good news: the Speaker promised during the floor debate that she would bring back a rainy day fund bill before we adjourn...although no hearings have been scheduled or held on a new Rainy Day Fund after nearly five months...

Posted by: Rep. Dave Hunt | May 25, 2005 4:23:19 PM

Today has not been a good day for my gorge (ie: I'm mad) and the GOP. First the move on School Funding (cutting roughly 35,000 students worth of dollars from the Dem proposed figure),now the down vote on Rainy Day fund. Hello, Minnis - this state uses ONE REVENUE SOURCE and it's highly volatile. That like CHOOSING to not have a bank account when you're a self employed specialized contractor. Some days you HAVE to live on savings cuz there is NO INCOME... that is Oregon's situation. ANd since the Legislature and voters seem hell- bent on keeping us from getting a steady pay-check (ie, a broad base, multi source tax structure), you'd think they'd have the decency to let us put something away when we are flush...but no.

Dems, I know we are down numbers in a game that is entirely about numbers, but we have GOT to get through to someone moderate on the other side before Oregon becomes #50 in catagories we can't climb back up easily.

Posted by: John Doty | May 25, 2005 5:11:00 PM

Is it true diebold counts our votes? Why?

Posted by: Gregor | May 25, 2005 5:23:49 PM

We work hard every day to find "someone moderate" on the other side to help close revenue loopholes and build the budget. On these issues all Republicans in the Oregon House vote as they are told by their leadership, at least on all the big issues. They depend on big supporters who funnel their campaign money through PACs controlled by the Republican House leaders. The Speaker controls committee memberships and the chairmanships - where the real power is under our House rules. Thus Republican members do as they are told. We are already at or very near #50 in many catagories we should not like. ..

Posted by: Rep Phil Barnhart | May 25, 2005 8:33:58 PM

It always and forever will come back to the essential foundation in our tax structure. Efforts to raise taxes plow head long into the reality that this state has few tax brackets to better target income levels, this state has no homestead credit to reduce property taxes for low income earners and this state does not have a good dialogue about how we could more effectively tax the business community.

As far as a rainy day fund is concerned, please make every effort to keep that money out of the hands of those that would use it for their own political gain!!!

Posted by: Jenson | May 26, 2005 1:29:58 AM

Dalto's your man. Runs as an "R" but down deep he can be had.

Posted by: rinowatch | May 26, 2005 9:37:05 AM

This is a great idea and long overdue. Oregon has long lacked an effective mechanism for providing relatively stable revenue for essential government programs. I'd much rather have effective state government in good times and bad than have a $2 kicker check in good times and no gov't services in bad times.

Posted by: Marty Wilde | May 26, 2005 10:27:33 AM

I ponder the issue of having elected officials making clearly partisan comments during the Legislative session. The purpose of this site is certainly more a campaign activity than communicating with constituents, informing the public, or seeking public input into the Legislative process.

If we are truly committed to a never ending campaign then stop the empty calls for bi-partisanship and a "non-partisan" Legislature. Call a spade “a spade.”

Oregonians are clearly demanding a more effective and productive Legislature. Deliberately provoking a fight and throwing bombs at the Republicans during critical budget negotiations are not the acts of responsible elected officials. Quit blogging, balance the budget and go home.

Posted by: BigBop | May 26, 2005 11:45:58 AM

Right on Big Bop. The democratic leadership should look to Jeff Kropf, Karen Minnis, Wayne Scott, and the many other shining examples of common decency and thoughtful deliberation on the Right side of the aisle.

Their commitment to gutting the ethics commission, delaying debate on Dem bills until the session is over, and generally throwing sand into the gears of government and accountablity, are perhaps to high of a bar to set for the opposition party.

Choosing to acquire the actual facts (well, most of the time anyway) reason things through, and work toward the best interests of their constituents is obviously destructive to........er......something or other.

See Rep Galizio's post above...........

Posted by: Pat Ryan | May 26, 2005 2:56:56 PM

Thanks, Pat. I was all set to respond to BigBop (who are you anyway and why a pseudonym?) when I saw that you did much of it for me.

One other thing though... I know that many Oregonians don't like partisan sounding comments. Yet I believe describing things as they are is important. There are specific and important differences in the Oregon Legislature, especially the House, between Democrats and Republicans. The people need to know what they are. I would be avoiding my duty to my constituents if I failed to point out those differences, hence my sometimes partisan sounding comments.

On the other side of the issue: Most of the matters the legislature deals with are not partisan. Most bills pass with few negative votes. Most of the bills I am sponsoring also have Republican sponsors because they are truly non-partisan. I talk with, smile at, and admire several Republican Representatives, but on the key partisan issues of our day I disagree with them and vote accordingly. I try to maintain good personal relationships with all my colleagues. You never know when today’s opponent is tomorrow’s ally.

Posted by: Rep Phil Barnhart | May 26, 2005 4:07:40 PM

Maintaining "good personal relationships" in the legislature is like kissing your sis. Watch your backside.

Posted by: rinowatch | May 26, 2005 4:23:54 PM

Bip Bop -

I thought you might be interested in an e-mail that went out of the Speaker's office on April 4th, which unfortunately I can't post here (I will forward it to you though).

This e-mail, sent by the Speakers' Communications Director had the headline "Why the Senate Democrats plan is bad for Oregon". It then proceeded to list who would be hurt by their plans through some far fetched interpretation of the budget numbers.

This would be defined as a classic partisan "bomb" in most peoples' book.

What actually damages negotiations? The Speaker's office sending out exagerated claims about the Senate Democrats' budget while she is sitting across the table from them in negotiations? Or a legislator engaging the public in a discussion about a rainy day fund proposal?

And since when is engaging in dicussion with the public a campaign activity?

Posted by: Jon Isaacs | May 26, 2005 4:45:47 PM

What we need are more serious legislators, regardless of party.

Tonite on Nightly Business Report, US House Speaker Hastert was interviewed and discussed legislation in detail. We need leadership in the Oregon House who can do that as well.
My most recent experience with the House Majority Office was calling to ask about a bill sponsored by Rep. Scott and being told that answering my questions "would not be productive". Anyone who has ever worked in a sales/ customer service role for a private company knows how far that would get you--reprimand or out the door!.

There is a very interesting article about the US Senate Democrats going "back to basics". Here's the URL and an excerpt.

Article about Schumer being interviewed at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast (known as the Sperling Breakfast until Sperling retired).

Sen. Charles Schumer outlined a plan for Democrats to avoid internal squabbles and ideological litmus tests in the 2006 elections.
Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP

But when it comes to trying to regain control of the Senate in 2006, Democrats plan to rely on a back-to-basics strategy, avoiding internal squabbles and ideological litmus tests and stressing instead the economic issues that are often paramount to voters.

That's the plan outlined at a Monitor breakfast with reporters by New York Senator Charles Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Posted by: LT | May 26, 2005 9:44:34 PM

As Rob Corddry famously said, "The facts have a liberal bias, Jon..." Or as Howard Dean has been relaying Truman, "I give 'em the truth, they think it's hell."

So BigBop, I guess frank discussion of policy and aim is NOT ok, what does that leave? Dissembling content or vacant content... what a GREAT choice.

Posted by: John Doty | May 26, 2005 9:45:44 PM

Ok, Allright, Ok...I can see I irked some on the site...

I'll give in, if someone will explain

1) What is the purpose/mission/goals of this site? What do the House Democrats hope to accomplish by starting this blog? How will this blog have a positive impact on everyday Oregonians? How will you contribute to a better Oregon?

2) How does this medium (a blog) further contribute to the above goals/mission/purpose? Were other mediums explored? Is this the best possible tool to accomplish the mission?

3) In what mannder does this blog contribute/supplement our Representatives' responsibilities to conduct "the people's business?"


PS (John - in case your mom never told you) Just because the Republicans do it...doesn't make it ok.

Posted by: BigBop | May 26, 2005 10:48:30 PM

This Blog is similar to open caucus or better stated "It's like a locker room that is always open,"...Peter sighs.

Referring to the press Senator Bates says "Frankly, I forget you guys are in the room now," (http://www.oregonlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news/1117188020211660.xml?oregonian?lcpl&coll=7)

Anything said/written here may/will be quoted, making the blog a grandstand for the upcoming campaigns next year.

Point set.

Posted by: rinowatch | May 27, 2005 6:27:30 AM

Why are all of the people who are raising faux concerns about this blog posting under fake names? As a constituent, I am thrilled that the House Dems are blogging. It shows me that they are willing to take their case directly to the Oregon people.

What better place to discuss the People's business, than an open and public forum like this blog?

Posted by: Salvador Peralta | Jun 26, 2005 10:41:39 PM

Thanks, Salvador, for your comment. Writing pieces for the blog is time consuming. We all hope that it is also informative and will lead to dialogue about the important issues of the day. I too wonder about the pseudonyms. I tend to respond to entries that look like they are real names and to comments that relate to the lead article. Having said that, you might suck me in if your comment is particularly interesting even without those two things.

Back to Salvador's point: I am completely convinced that we must make our case directly to the Oregon people. Basic services that most Oregonians want and need are fading away for lack of funds and care. We have proposals to strengthen Oregon's ecudation, health care and public safety that will do the job if used. The Republican proposals are designed to look good but not to actually work. In this area, remember the topic (?), the Doyle Bucket Plan looks good superficially, but will slowly strangle state government including our schools, community colleges, universities, human services and public safety. Our plan establishes a real reserves without false and unworkable spending limits. We already have a perfectly adequate spending limit in Oregon that does not require any repairs.

Posted by: Rep Phil Barnhart | Jun 28, 2005 1:21:46 PM

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