Jeff Kruse

JUNE 23, 2017




The biggest issue in the Senate this week was the provider tax, which will fund the Medicaid program.  I voted against the bill for a very simple reason.  There was a very clear pathway to the budget numbers we needed within the Medicaid assessment we have been using for over a decade.  Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House insisted on adding two new taxes to the formula, a .7% tax on hospitals and a 1.5% tax in health insurance.  What makes this even worse is the fact, based on a Washington court case, that while it takes a supermajority to create a tax the base can be expanded and the rate can be increased by a simple majority.  It should also be pointed out if we had kept this within the Medicaid assessment the money could have only gone to health care, but over time taxes can be increased and spent anywhere.  We offered a better alternative, but this is what we are stuck with.


Meanwhile the Governor, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President came out with a joint statement saying we would be looking at “real reforms” in 2019.  The statement also said they had found one billion dollars in savings.  Nothing could be further from the truth as the “savings they have found” are not in general fund or agency reductions.  For example, the Oregon Health Authority has over 4,500 employees and continues to add more.  However, the example I want to use for this purpose is the Department of Education.  In this budget, we are seeing no reductions in that agency.  The question is what value do they bring to the K-12 system?  The have hundreds of employees and spend hundreds of millions of dollars that might be better spent in the classroom.  As it turns out, their main function appears to be data collection.  There are currently over 170 reporting requirements placed on schools, very few of which have anything to do with what goes on in the classroom.  It does, however, require schools to spend money on positions to compile this data and it also justifies all the positions inside the department who then write the reports based on this data collection.  In the end, most of these reports go on a shelf have had very little value for schools.


One thing I have observed over the years is the fact most state agencies primary objective seems to be protecting their status and expanding their scope whenever possible.  They tend to be, unfortunately, very successful at this, keeping in mind all state employees are union members.  One can simply follow the money.  In the last governor’s race, for example the unions contributed $4,913 to Bud Pierce and $986,822 to Kate Brown.  With another election coming in 2018, it is easy to connect the dots.


It is becoming clear that this Session we will be doing nothing real in the areas of cost containment or PERS reform.  I would submit that in Salem the public employee unions and Portland are running the show.  It may sound like I am anti-government, but I am not.  Government has a very legitimate role in society.  I just happen to think the people are more important than the government, and it appears not everyone up has the same opinion.


I will end this with a quote from Thomas Jefferson.  “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”


I believe he has a valid point.




Senator Jeff Kruse

email: Sen.JeffKruse@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1701
address: 900 Court St NE, S-205, Salem, OR, 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/kruse