Speirs: Hey, Speaker Kotek, leave our kicker alone
While I'm not the least bit surprised at Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and her mad grab for the people's money, I am angered by the lack of explanations for the suggested actions.
Kotek acknowledges a $26 billion PERS liability and suggests taking $800 million promised to Oregon taxpayers as a way to address this massive financial hole. What she doesn't do (nor do few others in Salem) is to understand the reasons for this fiasco, nor comprehend the frustrations the average citizen feels when trying to grasp how elected officials could create such a mess.
This PERS nightmare was conceived, incubated and manufactured by the legislative body in Salem. At the time, cautious and critical voices with experience in financial matters were alarmed at the PERS creation, suggesting the promises made to the public were unrealistic in the extreme. They said this was an unsustainable vehicle that would eventually bankrupt the state. Their concerns were brushed aside and the legislation went forward.
Tina Kotek was not a member of the legislative group at the time the PERS action was initiated. However, she must now share in coming up with draconian solutions to the growing debt. What Kotek suggests is taking the taxpayer money to put a Band-Aid on the PERS monster. This is offensive in every way, and shows complete contempt for Oregon citizens.
First, we didn't create this fiasco. Kotek's legislative organization is exclusively responsible for this financial mess and it's that group who needs to correct it. By shifting the burden to the tax payer, it's like robbing a bank. It's not your money. The money belongs to the hardworking Oregonians who mostly shake their heads in disbelief at the incompetent arrogance of people like Kotek and much of the Legislature and governor.
Ms. Kotek seems to believe by taking other people's money to address Salem's own fiscal Frankenstein, the problem will somehow be eased. In the same article, Kotek references Gov. Kate Brown's proposed $2 billion in additional revenue requests. Only vague and inconclusive words address how this $2 billion will be raised. However, any person with third-grade math skills knows the answer: more taxes.
The excesses inherent within the PERS fiasco will continue to grow. Apparently, Oregon legislators will continue do all in their power to kick the can down the road. They will also look for ways to make their actions the responsibility of all Oregonians. By tugging on the emotional cry of "it's all for the children and their education," the cabal of financial cannibals in Salem will turn a blind eye on washing their own laundry and cleaning up the mess they created.
Earth to Tina Kotek: The kicker money is not yours. It belongs to the people. Salem created this growing PERS cancer, and Salem will need to do harsh and ugly things to solve the massive financial disease. Is there one person in the Oregon Legislature with a spine? By her actions, it's clear Kotek will not be leading the charge toward locating a backbone. She will be perfectly comfortable in taking money that's not hers, thus making others suffer for the mistakes of Salem.
This is what passes for leadership in Oregon? You're kidding, $26 billion — what have you done?
Jim Speirs is a journalist, local historian and published author of the "Tales of North Portland" series and other books. He lives in Portland.
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