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2013 Legislature: Five bold business ideas

January 16, 2013

By Oregon Prosperity Project

2013 – Five Pillars of Prosperity for Oregon Legislature

The 2013 Oregon legislature will come to Salem next week to organize and prepare for a long, five month legislative session that begins February 4th.We believe the Oregon legislature will advance the prosperity of our state – our entire state – if it focuses on four key issues this year. Back in Washington, DC, Oregon’s congressional delegation is already back to work.  We believe Oregon’s economy is best served if our delegation plays a constructive role in getting a grip on our nation’s most vexing problem.

Together, it’s the five pillars of prosperity for our state. These are the issues we’ll be paying attention to, talking about, and holding our elected officials accountable to this year. Oregon’s challenges are well documented:  high unemployment, stagnant incomes, and disturbing trends in government spending top the list. But solutions are attainable that will move us forward.
Pillar #1 – Grow Jobs and Incomes. Fifteen years ago, the average income of Oregonians came close to the national average. Today, the average income level in Oregon has plummeted to 9% below the national average.

We believe this is the defining issue in our state.

We believe that quality of life in Oregon starts with having a good job. Bringing Oregon’s average income up to the national average would help Oregon families to get ahead and plan for their own economic future.

Instead of raising taxes on anyone, the 2013 Oregon legislature should find ways to improve the business climate and make it easier for people to start and expand their own business. This means reducing barriers and making it easier to hire employees. This will increase the number of people who are working, increase wages, and create more tax revenues for the state to fund services.

Oregon does not benefit from ever-higher taxes or ever-shifting and more stringent regulation or new barriers to hiring. In order to accommodate these things, business are forced to cut jobs or not hire new employees, ultimately raising our unemployment rate and lowering the tax revenue the state collects to fund important public services.

The Oregon Prosperity Project has its own ideas about proposals that will grow the Oregon economy, but we will be vigilant in supporting legislative proposals that will result in job creation and equally vocal in our opposition to proposals that will diminish job opportunities in our state.

Pillar #2 – Fix PERS. Oregon’s public employee retirement system is exacting a heavy toll on our education system, our public safety, and our public services. In fact, the Oregon PERS Board recently determined that Oregon’s state agencies must pay a 45% rate increase – totaling $2 billion over the next two years – to address PERS’ $16 billion unfunded liability. This is $2 billion that will not go to hire any new teachers, increase our number of school days, or reduce class sizes. The added PERS burden may even spur talk of tax increases to cover the skyrocketing costs.

Oregon’s ongoing problems with its pension system are rooted in complex, poorly understood plan designs, successive increases in benefits beyond what was originally intended or needed for adequate retirement, and inherently volatile capital markets. The Oregon Prosperity Project will be discussing and promoting several options to reduce the cost of PERS while promoting a sustainable government employee retirement system that is fair to both retirees and taxpayers.

Pillar #3 – Build the Bridge. Over 500,000 Oregon jobs are dependent on our transportation system. One in five Oregon jobs is dependent on trade. Oregon’s I-5 Bridge across the Columbia River is both outdated and the only economic bottleneck along the entire I-5 corridor from Canada to Mexico. A compromised I-5 Bridge threatens Oregon’s economy.

It’s time to build a new I-5 bridge to ease the flow of goods and people in and out of Oregon as well as withstand natural disasters. Oregon should commit to its $450 million share of the I-5 Bridge to secure federal investment in the project for a 2013-14 construction start date.

Pillar #4 – Invest Wisely in Education. To put it simply, education pays. Education and workforce preparation are critical for Oregon’s economic success. To grow companies that successfully compete as global leaders in innovative products and services, Oregon needs to develop the well-educated, talented employees that fuel such businesses. From the research department to the executive office to the factory floor, businesses are paying a premium for education and talent. They should find that talent here in Oregon.

To raise Oregon’s standard of living, we need to raise our level of education. Yes, investment in education requires more money into classrooms, teachers, training, and facilities (fixing PERS costs would go a long way toward helping here, see Pillar #2), but it also means we need to build a seamless, engaging education system built around clear standards for proficiency rather than traditional seat time in courses. It should also mean redesigning the way the state budgets its education investments to focus on students and their outcomes rather than on the funding of institutions.

Pillar #5 – Lower the Debt. We consider our national debt to be the most pressing issue in our country today.

Today, our national debt exceeds $16 trillion. It represents more than 70 percent of the total US economy, and is set to continue to rise even after the economy recovers from the recent downturn. The debt is on track to exceed 100 percent of our national economy next decade and exceed 200 percent by the 2040s.

Rising national debt will slow our economic growth, and a slower economy will reduce our standard of living. Ultimately, we will face an economic crisis if we don’t change course – perhaps along the lines of what several European countries are currently experiencing.

Higher debt means leaving future generations saddled with it, reducing their budget flexibility and the ability of the United States to respond to crises in the future – including economic, natural, and security emergencies.

Oregon’s congressional delegation needs to be constructive participants in a plan that stabilizes debt as a share of our economy and then puts it on a clear downward path this decade. Credible and gradual debt reduction can reverse all of the negative economic consequences of elevated and rising debt by improving business confidence and reducing uncertainty.

The Oregon Prosperity Project will engage you on this issue in 2013 with resources and ways to get involved in support of meaningful national debt reduction.

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Discuss this article

James Burns January 16, 2013

The #1 priority should be overhaul our land use laws and development ordinances to remove all the restrictions on new businesses coming to Or. or existing businesses here to expand. You cannot get more new jobs without getting rid of the rediculous road blocks for businesses to expand in this state. The #2 priority should be reducing PERS and if it takes the state filing bankruptcy then that is what they should do. It is the biggest albotross around our neck and it is breaking this state.
#3 priority is to gut every department and remove every department that no longer is needed so we lower our debt. We have not balanced our budget the last 3 sessions, we bonded ourselves into more debt by using the lottery to borrow with bonds to balance the debt. Doing this we started with 15 yr bonds and now are stuck with 30 yr bonds so my grandkids will be 60 yrs old before they are paid off and if we do this stunt this session we will have 45 yr bonds. The stupidity goes on and on and on.
We need to put more stringent requirements on education to produce a better end product. We have kids coming out of school that cannot balance a check book, write the check and some are already with kids and on welfare. Fire teachers that do not reach a high (and I mean high) standard of teaching. Our education system sucks.
Build the bridge, but get a good engineering firm to build it. ODOT cannot even build a road that lasts 10 yrs (I have 2 of them in Eastern Oregon that have been rebuilt 3 times in 10 yrs. They just covered up a 20+ mile road that was over 70 yrs old and did not have one patch on it. Should disband ODOT and give it to private companies to maintain and replace our roads. Another department that needs the knife taken to it.
Oregon also needs to tell the white ass in the white house that Oregon is not going to go along with his gun agenda. There will be no federal intervention in this state by them, we will deal with gun ownership and gun types for our citizens. And that means the legislature needs to make this a free gun carry state. Those states that have gone this way have curbed crime drematically.
I am not a spammer. I am probably the only citizen in this state that for almost 50 yrs has read every bill the legislatures have put forth.
I know that I am the only one that has read the Oregon Obama Care Bills and understand how bad that is going to hurt this state.

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