Oregon prisons, social services in need of millions of dollars as lawmakers adjust budgets
…When the Oregon Legislature convenes Monday, two large state agencies will be asking for tens of millions of dollars.
Lawmakers will revisit the 2013-15 budget to address collective bargaining costs, a record $40 million wildfire season and revenue forecasts that fell $70 million short of earlier projections…
Corrections officials say they need about $90 million, and Human Services officials say they need about $100 million to fill their gaps, though some money is expected from other sources…
The Oregonian, January 28, 2014
Our Response and Your Comments
Here are three rules to remember when you’re reading about government “needing” more money:
Government (at every level – city, county, state, federal) always needs more money;
Government can never do with less money;
You can always do with less money because of Rule #1.
As Ronald Reagan opined: “Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”
Golden Fleece Award – Issue 55
A Big Gulp – Of Your Tax Dollars
We present this week’s Golden Fleece Award to the Salem Oregon State Penitentiary.
Even though this program has been cancelled, they still receive the coveted Golden Fleece just for wasting the money.
Over a two year period the Penitentiary spent a whopping $775,000 on soft drinks for inmates!
We think that the guys who were nuts enough to take your money and pour it down felons’ gullets ought to be further awarded 2 years for stupid and about 50 more for not caring about the dollars they confiscated from you!
The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act: Protecting Your Family
By Kevin Mannix
Just imagine you’re at home relaxing in the living room with your spouse and kids, when an intruder attempts to break down your door. What would you do?
- Submit, give in to the intruder’s effort to break in and not protect your family
- Protect yourself and your family
Clearly, the choice would be to protect yourself and your family, but this can have legal implications, especially under the civil law.
Under these circumstances, there are two parts of Oregon law to be concerned about:
The big issue is possible civil liability.
An attorney for the criminal intruder may seek damages from you on various legal theories including the argument that you should have retreated, with your family, in your own home. There was a case in another state where a burglar shot and wounded a homeowner; the homeowner returned fire and wounded the burglar, who escaped. The burglar was later found, and tried and convicted of burglary and assault. Yet, the burglar then filed a civil suit against the homeowner for injuries suffered by the burglar when the homeowner fought back and shot the burglar.
Realistically, you would probably win a civil case brought against you by a criminal intruder but only after much time, trouble and expense.
Secondly, it is possible you could be prosecuted; the reality is most prosecutors will not bring charges in these types of cases because the juries will not look kindly at criminal intruders, but the possibility is still there.
Common Sense For Oregon is working to clean the air about your rights through a citizen initiative, The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act. Common Sense For Oregon is currently collecting petition signatures (we need 130,000 before July 1st) to get this major citizen initiative on Oregon’s November 2014 Ballot. To date, 35 states have adopted a “Castle Doctrine.” Now let’s make Oregon the 36th state!
The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act would allow homeowners to defend themselves and their loved ones, without having to later defend themselves in court.
If you would like to know more about supporting The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act you can visit the Common Sense For Oregon website www.commonsensefororegon.com , call 503-480-0523, or email email@example.com.
If you want to be able to defend yourself and your loved ones against a criminal trying to break-in, without having to worry about being sued, support The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act.
Demand action on PERS reform
By Rep. Kevin Cameron (R-Salem)
There have been nearly 50 bills introduced that address, in some way, the PERS issue. So far, there has been no substantial legislation that has received a hearing. I am co-sponsoring the below four bills that were introduced by Rep. Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg).
HB 3056 would limit the computation of “final average salary” to salary, rather than including unused sick time and vacation accruals.
HB 3057 would limit the COLA for PERS benefits to the first $36,000 of retirement income.
HB 3058 phases out the ability of employers to “pick-up” the employee’s 6% contribution into retirement accounts by 2020.
HB 3059 ends the practice of providing a supplemental benefit payment to offset income taxes for those who are not subject to Oregon income taxes.
It is my understanding that estimates of savings after instituting these reforms would be over $700 million per biennium. These alterations to the current process are important steps in the right direction to put PERS on sustainable footing for the future.
This is not a conversation about the worthiness of our public employees. It is a conversation about the absolute proven unsustainability of this retirement system. These bills deserve the opportunity to be heard, at the very least, in order to begin meaningful dialogue about how we are going to address this important issue in our state. The impact that it is having to our school districts and local government budgets is devastating and hurting our kids, our seniors, our social service agencies, and public safety. We must do better.
Reprinted with permission from Oregon Catalyst
Lane County Board of Commissioners Chair Sid Leiken comments on Governor Kitzhaber’s letter to the Federal Delegation regarding future management of the O and C lands of Western Oregon
I would like to express my thanks to Governor John Kitzhaber for convening a group of Oregon stakeholders to take on the exceedingly tough public policy issue of how to best manage the O and C lands of Western Oregon. He has clearly prioritized this issue. His willingness to put into writing his expectations for our Congressional leaders should be appreciated by all of Lane County’s citizens, especially given the huge amount of federal land that surrounds our communities.
His letter to the Oregon delegation of the United States Congress summarizing the work of his panel could not have come at a better time. Literally today, Lane County received its last check from the federal government with dollars that came as a result of the Secure Rural Schools Act, first passed into law in 2000 under the leadership of Senator Ron Wyden. Notably, that check held back $500,000 of O and C revenue due to an un-expected and un–appreciated maneuver by the Department of the Interior. These are the very dollars that Lane County would be able to use for critical public safety services and their elimination is precisely why the Board of County Commissioners has been discussing putting a modest property tax proposal in front of the voters of Lane County.
The Governor clearly understands the tough road ahead for our federal delegation. These lands are unique to western Oregon, and their fate lies in the hands of the entirety of the US Congress. With Senator Wyden’s historic advocacy for the communities of Western Oregon and the more recent and courageous bi-partisan plan created by House members DeFazio, Walden, and Schrader, Governor Kitzhaber’s recommendations provide a foundation that should quickly lead to collaboration amongst the entirety of the federal delegation. Speaking with one voice united between the House and the Senate is crucially important given the rancourous nature of the current political environment in Washington DC.
It remains my belief that a way forward can only be charted if there is a sense of shared responses from local, state, and federal partners. Governor Kitzhaber states “Oregon state and local governments should share in the responsibility to fill any gap which may remain between timber revenues and the funding level required to keep counties fiscally viable.” I know that both the Governor and our delegation are aware that Lane County is contemplating a local money measure that would fund jail beds and youth services. Our residents also know that this new revenue will not cover the entirety of our public safety structure. I am willing to take the first step to place the shared response the Governor speaks to squarely on our shoulders. In doing so, I am confident that if we are successful there will be even more reason for the state and the federal government to act. Allowing some responsible degree of harvest to return to these forests is an absolute must.
Public safety and sentencing reform: Why overhaul a justice system that’s working?
By Michael D. Schrunk and Rod Underhill
Recently Gov. John Kitzhaber was forced to present a difficult budget proposal. Some members of the current Commission on Public Safety apparently feel this calls for a significant redesign of the criminal justice system, including “comprehensive sentencing reform.” Many members of the law enforcement community, however, are puzzled about the need to redesign one of the most progressive and successful systems in the nation.
Only a quarter of convicted felons in this state go to prison, compared with a national average of 40 percent, producing one of America’s lower incarceration rates. We nonetheless have been a national leader in the reduction of violent crime since the passage of mandatory sentencing for some violent crimes. Oregon was the first state whose laws require evidence-based practices for those on probation and parole. Prisons here have a lower percentage of property and drug offenders than in any other state. We have decided on a policy to reserve prison space for violent offenders while we attempt to help those who commit drug and property offenses turn their lives around. We have dramatically reduced our recidivism rate in the past five years. The list goes on.
Soon the Commission on Public Safety will report on sentencing reform, and the question remains: Why drastically overhaul one of the most successful justice systems in the country? The answer proposed by some is that current sentencing laws will produce “unsustainable” prison growth over the next 10 years — requiring more than 2,000 new prison beds. This is a questionable proposition.
First, prison population forecasting in this state has had an uneven history at best. Every 10-year forecast since 1995 has predicted greater prison growth than actually occurred, with some fully 47 percent high. These past overpredictions are invariably used by critics to advocate for wide-ranging changes in sentencing policy, as is being done now.
Second, none of the currently predicted prison growth is a result of mandatory sentences for violent crimes. Violent crime policy in this state has been so successful that the prison population of offenders serving mandatory sentences is stable.
Third, more than 60 percent of predicted prison growth in the next decade will simply result from state population growth. Additional public services required by population growth are inherently sustainable, because population growth produces proportionally increased tax revenue. Indeed, while the state economist predicts a 16 percent increase in prison beds in the next decade, he also predicts a 48 percent increase in state government revenues in that same period. This should provide a solution in itself.
We understand through experience the need to scrutinize government operations for savings. No one should believe, however, that cutting prison spending, which constitutes only 9 percent of general fund expenditures, can contribute much to other areas.
Indeed, the one negative in the overall bright picture in Oregon’s justice system has come when incarceration has been reduced in several counties. Here in Multnomah County, for example, more than 35 percent of jail beds have been cut since 2001, contributing, we believe, to Portland’s increasing property crime rate. Further, a recent look at county and emergency inmate releases reveals that about 75 percent of released inmates commit new offenses on release. That’s food for thought as we examine what we should do statewide.
That said, we also have ideas about how sentencing policy can be reformed safely to improve current practices. Law enforcement representation on the current commission has proposed comprehensive measures that would save money without sacrificing the integrity and effectiveness of a justice system produced in no small part by voter participation. We hope the commission will take these proposals seriously and not press forward unwisely based on questionable perceptions regarding public safety policy.
Michael D. Schrunk has been Multnomah County district attorney since 1981 and is retiring this month. Rod Underhill is Multnomah County district attorney-elect.
Reprinted with permission from Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance
Leiken: Lane County’s Crumbling Public Safety System
On Thursday, November 29, 2012, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office closed another 35 jail beds resulting in the release of more than 30 inmates from the Lane County Jail. By Friday afternoon two of the released inmates were already back – one arrested for robbing a bank and one for unlawful entry and theft.
The release of these inmates from the Lane County Jail is directly related to the significant reduction in federal funding and is indicative of the lack of active management of the federal forests that make up half our land base. I fully support Sheriff Turner and his dedicated staff during this challenging time. They are sworn to protect us, but have been confined by inadequate resources.
Many voices have called for Lane County to move beyond federal timber revenue sharing, yet we cannot ignore the economic potential of the forests amongst which we live. Lane County Commissioners, even this week, continue to debate the form and function of a property tax measure dedicated to supporting the jail. But to fully rebuild a functioning public safety system (jail, patrol, prosecution, youth services, and treatment and prevention) would take more than a doubling of Lane County’s existing property tax. Residents have never supported tax proposals of that size, and there is no reason to expect they will now even in spite of the dismantled state of our public safety system. A property tax increase at this time throws cold water on our fragile recovery and, under Measure 5, the only options available to voters are temporary solutions. What’s more, those options could actually impinge on the tax revenue of our community’s fire, school, city, and other taxing districts.
Lane County’s partnership with the federal government goes all the way back to 1906, when the first national forests were created and County Commissioners throughout the West lobbied Congress to create a mechanism that would replace tax revenue lost by creating enormous amounts of publicly owned lands. Congress has all but completely walked away from this promise. I thank Congressmen DeFazio, Walden, and Schrader, and Governor Kitzhaber for forcing a dialogue to find a way to ensure both the essential ecosystem and the crucial revenue that provides for the security of Lane County families.
What we’ve seen this week – what we’ve seen as our system has eroded over the last several years – is the result of the reduction of tens of millions of real dollars. It cannot be blamed on uncontrollable cost, bad management, or waste. No single, immediate solution will fix our system. We need a long term solution to a sustainable public safety system that lays out the incremental steps to get there. We are committed to identifying such a cohesive strategy.
Sid Leiken is Chair of the Lane County Board of Commissioners
To provide protection for Oregon’s old growth and natural treasures the O&C TRUST, CONSERVATION, AND JOBS ACT
Provides legislative protection for old growth on 2.6 million acres of public forests in western Oregon for the first time in history.
Adds nearly 150 miles of Oregon rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including:
- 93 miles of the iconic Rogue River and its tributaries;
- 21 miles of the Molalla River;
- 19 miles of the threatened Chetco River; and
- 15 miles of Wasson and Franklin Creeks, tributaries of the Umpqua River
Protects 90,000 acres of Oregon forests as wilderness, including:
- 58,000 acres to be added to the existing Wild Rogue Wideness
- 32,000 acres of some of the last remaining old growth in Oregon’s Coast Range and permanent protection for Devil’s Staircase
Transfers more than 1,000,000 acres of mature and old growth forests from the Bureau of Land Management to the Forest Service to be managed as National Forest Lands.
Requires thousands of miles of legacy roads and logging roads in disrepair to be brought up to federal and state standards.
Repeals the contentious O&C Act of 1937 that led to the Western Oregon Plan Revisions.
Includes management restrictions on O&C Trust lands to protect clean water, terrestrial, and aquatics values, including:
- Prohibition on aerial application of herbicides and pesticides and a requirement for a public process for the development of an integrated Pest Management Plan;
- Long and short timber rotation ages to provide diversification and to encourage the recruitment of complex, early serial habitat; and
- A sustained yield requirement to prevent overcutting
Expedites land exchanges between the federal government, the O&C Trust lands, and private landowners to create larger contiguous blocks of forested land in western Oregon and to improve the conservation values of such lands.
Ensures the scientific community and general public are represented on the O&C Board of Trustees
Maintains federal ownership of all O&C lands and public access privileges.
CERTAINTY FOR COUNTIES
To uphold the federal governments’ commitment to rural and federally forested communities in western Oregon the O&C TRUST, CONSERVATION, AND JOBS ACT provides:
- Forested counties in western Oregon with a sustainable and more predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support basic county government services like law enforcement, education, health, and transportation.
- Turns around nearly two decades of gridlock on federal forests that will help timber dependent counties in Western Oregon improve their economic and financial outlooks.
- Estimated to create thousands of new jobs in rural communities throughout Oregon and will reduce unacceptably high unemployment levels in the State.
- Moves counties away from an uncertain future of federal payments to a long-tern solution that meets the federal government’s obligation to federally forested communities while bringing jobs back to our communities and health back to our federal forests.
- Ensures legal certainty by establishing a fiduciary trust for the O&C Counties and ensures strong O&C county representation on the Board of Trustees to guarantee the Board’s fiduciary obligation to the 18 O&C Counties.
- Sets a fair standard for the federal government by requiring the Board of Trustees to provide a return from the O&C Trust lands to the American taxpayer and U.S. Treasury.
- Establishes a temporary federal loan to aid O&C Counties during transition to payments from the O&C Trust.
MYTHS AND FACTS: O&C TRUST, CONSERVATION, AND JOBS ACT
ACT MYTHS AND FACTS
MYTH: The expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, aka “county payments, will not have a major impact on forested counties in Oregon, so a long term forest management plan is not needed.
FACT: A new study by Oregon State University found that if county payments are not extended or replaced with a long-term solution, Oregon counties will face combined revenue losses of $215 million, and lose 4,000 jobs, $400 million in business sales, and $250 million in value added economic activity. In fact, without a viable long-term solution, some rural counties in western Oregon may be forced to declare a public safety emergency or dissolve.
MYTH: Congress could solve the county payments problem by assessing a tax on raw log exports.
FACT: A tax on raw log exports is unconstitutional. Article I, Section 9, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution directly states, “No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.”
MYTH: The O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act (OCTCJA) is a bad deal for taxpayers.
FACT: Taxpayers spend $110 million per year to manage 2.6 million acres of O&C forests in western Oregon. OCTCJA would require a Board of Trustees to assume all management costs for the Trust lands, saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year by reducing.fhr annual federal management costs associated with the management of western Oregon timberlands. Additionally, the Board of Trustees would be required to submit an annual payment to the United States Treasury to help pay down the federal deficit, Finally, active management will create thousands of jobs and produce net revenue for American taxpayers while ensuring county governments can provide essential county services, like law enforcement, education, health, and transportation.
MYTH: The plan would make it more difficult for private landowners to access and manage their own lands.
FACT: The plan preserves and protects all existing and valid rights of neighboring land owners, including tail hold, road access, and right-of-way agreements.
MYTH: O&C Lands will be sold to Wall Street speculators.
FACT: No O&C Lands will be sold. All O&C Lands will remain in public ownership and the public will retain access privileges.
MYTH: This plan has few conservation components.
FACT: The plan includes 90,000 acres of new wilderness, 150 miles of new Wild and Scenic river designations, and provides the first legislative protection for mature and old growth forests. The plan also excludes environmentally sensitive areas, parks and recreation areas, wild and scenic corridors, and wilderness areas from the O&C Trust lands.
MYTH: This will make it more difficult to control wildfires.
FACT: The plan would maintain the existing cooperative fire protection agreements for the O&C Trust, Forest Service and adjoining private lands.
MYTH: The Act does not provide any protection for the Northern Spotted Owl.
FACT: The plan specifically mandates that the O&C Trust Lands be managed in compliance with federal and state laws as those laws apply to private forest lands. This includes complying with ESA provisions that prohibit harm or take of threatened or endangered species. Consistent with the intent of the Northwest Forest Plan and Owl Recovery Plan, old growth forests, which serve as the best habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, will be excluded from the management trust
MYTH: The Act undermines the Northwest Forest Plan
FACT: The intent of the Northwest Forest Plan was to provide a sustainable supply of timber while protecting habitat critical to the survival of threatened species, such as the Northern Spotted Owl and salmon. The plan strives to accomplish these intended goals – which the Northwest Forest Plan failed to achieve – by providing greater certainty about what lands are eligible for sustainable logging and what lands are to be set aside to sustain threatened species.
MYTH: OCTCJA sweetheart deal for rural Oregon counties so they don’t have to raise property taxes.
FACT: There are constitutional limitations on property tax increases in Oregon. As a recent Oregon State University study confirmed, even if counties were able to obtain voter approval to increase property, lodging, and real estate taxes, rural Oregon counties would only be able to make up 8-24 percent of the funding gap. The plan fulfills a historical commitment to federally forested communities in Oregon by creating thousands of jobs in our forests and mills, and providing a sustainable and more predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support basic county services like law enforcement, education, health, and transportation.
MYTH: Millions of acres public forests will be converted into industrial plantations.
FACT: Private industry lands in Oregon are typically managed on a 30-40 year rotation. The plan requires at least half of the landscape to be managed on a long rotation of between 100-120 years and to be geographically dispersed across the landscape to provide ecological diversity. The plan also minimizes the use of pesticides and provides protections for old growth.
MYTH: OCTCJA would increase logging exports to China.
FACT: The plan explicitly prohibits exporting raw logs from the O&C Trust lands. The plan would continue the ban on exporting unprocessed logs from federal lands and impose penalties on businesses that violate the law and send family-wage jobs overseas.
MYTH: Revenues from logging cannot support rural counties because the timber market is so bad.
FACT: While there is still current demand for timber, it remains far below historic levels. The proposed O&C Trust would not be fully operational for two years after enactment thus providing some time for timber markets to recover. The plan requires the Board of Trustees to capitalize a Reserve Fund to balance payments to counties in years of market volatility. Finally, the plan requires the Board of Trustees to offer timber sales on a competitive basis.
MYTH: The Board of Trustees will be exempt from federal lows and the public process.
FACT: The O&C Trust Lands will be managed in compliance with federal and state laws as they apply to private forest lands in Oregon, including the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act The :general public will be represented on the Board of Trustees and meetings of the Board involving :management decisions will be open to the public.
MYTH: This plan does not address the “checkerboard” nature of the O&C Lands that have created significant management challenges-
FACT: The plan expedites land exchanges between the federal government, the O&C Trust lands, and private landowners to create larger contiguous blocks of forested land in western Oregon and to improve management efficiencies of both federal and private land.