As we prepare for the beginning of the Legislature, we tip our hat to one priority that Gov. Kate Brown hopes to accomplish during the short session.
That priority is affordable housing. Her proposal to allow the state to temporarily waive fees and education requirements — in favor of on the job training experience — for construction professionals to obtain supervisory licenses makes sense. We especially appreciate the idea of instituting low-cost Business Oregon loans that would allow subcontractors to work on affordable buildings in rural Oregon.
Yet we can’t help but offer a kick in the pants to her initial plans for tackling PERS this sessions, which look like nothing more than kicking that clunky can farther down the road.
As we have reported, the state is facing an unfunded liability of about $25 billion. Yet Brown’s proposal is to create a fund to encourage public employers to save money for their employees’ retirement costs.
For doing so, the state would contribute about 25 cents for every dollar saved. Yet, it’s unclear what effect this would have on the unfunded liability, and once again doesn’t decrease the amount that taxpayers are contributing to the retirement plans of public employees (which caused this whole mess in the first place.)
We need serious reforms and a real plan. Every year we don’t get them, the problem gets worse.
We give a tip of the hat to Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plan for a reorganization of the Department of Interior, which is much too Washington-centric for a department that deals almost exclusively with Western lands.
We haven’t been pleased with much of Zinke’s actions as Interior secretary, not least of which was incorrectly rigging his fishing rod when headed out for his “regular guy” photo op. His more impactful mistakes include a shockingly destructive and almost universally unwanted offshore drilling plan, and his recommendation to reduce the size of national monuments across the West goes against a century of tradition. His gigantic increase in admission fees for national parks seems similarly foolish.
But we think his plan for reorganization is smart, and can help reduce the anger behind rural Westerners and the federal bureaucracy that owns much of the land that surrounds them.
According to national reporting, Zinke plans to shift tens of thousands of workers to new locations in the west. The department has 70,000 employees nationwide.
This is a bipartisan issue — many Western Republicans and Democrats favor moving the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to the region, perhaps to Denver or Albuquerque where many Interior folks are already.
While the devil is always in the details, we believe getting more Interior employees out of the Beltway into the country to which they serve is a crucial step toward improving outcomes.