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Doctors 'Need Some Hope'
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Press Release

Doctors 'Need Some Hope'

From the Charleston Daily Mail, January 29, 2003, Wednesday Copyright 2003 Charleston Newspapers Because her malpractice insurance shot up from $ 28,000 last year to $ 98,000 this year in the state's program, a Huntington obstetrician recently shut down her obstetrics practice. Dr. Nina Smith couldn't pay what the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management charged, said Dr. Phillip Stevens, a former president of the West Virginia State Medical Association and a Huntington ear, nose and throat doctor.

01/29/2003
Drugging Medicare
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Press Release

Drugging Medicare

The new political reality is that, very soon, taxpayers are going to start paying for medical drugs for senior citizens. The idea of a drug benefit has a full steam of head in Washington, D.C., after passing the House of Representatives last Congress. That bill was a disaster, and in one stroke would have increased the federal government’s unfunded obligations by a staggering $4 trillion or so. Thankfully, that plan died in the Senate, but the idea has arrived. OK, first of all, on one level including drugs in our health care program for seniors makes sense. Drugs are an increasingly important part of medical care, and funding drug treatment will have some immediate benefit to the health care bottom line. In fact, a study by Columbia University economist Frank Lichtenberg found that every $1 spent on newer drugs saved $4 in hospital care. The reason: because prescription drugs are more often used for preventive care, they stave off more debilitating, more costly medical conditions requiring expensive and lengthy hospitalization. While a $600 annual prescription for two leading cholesterol-reducing drugs may seem expensive, it is the long-term effect of those drugs that helps avert an emergency bypass operation and lengthy hospital stay at an average cost of $300,000, according to the study. The pharmaceutical companies are, indeed, leading a health care revolution. For example, the Washington Post reports today on Virginia Garner, a teacher in Claremont, California, who takes the new drug Gleevec to stave off her leukemia. “Today, Garner's life has been returned to her. She is back in her classroom and spending time enjoying her husband and two dogs. The only reminder of her cancer is the six yellow capsules she swallows every morning with a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast. ‘I feel great. I don't even remember I'm sick," said Garner. ‘I think of it as under control. It's sort of like diabetes. The insulin keeps the diabetes under control. It's like that. It's turned into a disease you can manage. It's a miracle. It's truly a miracle." George Bush recognized the power of pharmaceutical drugs in his State of the Union speech last night when he declared that the nation should give “…seniors access to the preventive medicine and new drugs that are transforming health care in America.” It’s fair that poor seniors, who paid into Medicare most of the lives, should have access to these drugs. Having said that, it would be folly to pass a prescription drug benefit without passing fundamental reform of the collapsing Medicare program. Creating a naked benefit like the House did last year would only further weaken the entire Medicare system. Why? Medicare’s top-down cost control strategy has failed. Medicare pays too much for medical services in some parts of the country and far too little in others. Many doctors now routinely refuse to take Medicare patients. Politically driven decision-making leaves hospitals teetering on the edge of financial ruin, waiting for last minute bailouts from Congress. George Bush knows that drugs can save lives and improve the quality of American health care. He also sees that Congress, left to its own devices, will destroy the Medicare system by simply adding a drug benefit to it. Thus, the tactical brilliance of the approach the President proposed in his State of the Union address: passing a drug benefit that exists in a new, parallel Medicare system. As the President put it, “Seniors happy with the current Medicare system should be able to keep their coverage just the way it is.” But, to get the drug benefit, a Medicare recipient would join a private insurance or doctor’s group. The result is that the “integrity” of Medicare is maintained, and frightened seniors that don’t want the drug benefit can simply stay in traditional Medicare.

01/29/2003
A Return to Fundamentals
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Press Release

A Return to Fundamentals

This year’s State of the Union was delivered to an anxious audience, both at home and internationally. While the question of war was paramount for much of the audience, the present economic malaise was just as pressing for many viewers. To address these concerns, President Bush rightly called for a return to economic fundamentals. The president’s agenda focuses on strengthening economic growth and targets existing policies that limit growth and job creation: a punitive tax code, burdensome regulations, frivolous lawsuits, and costly federal programs that are unsustainable without major reforms.

01/29/2003
This Week on Capitol Hill
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Press Release

This Week on Capitol Hill

Albeit this week’s political news is dominated by Iraq and the State of the Union Address, things on Capitol Hill continue to chug along. Here’s a quick update on the proceedings. President’s Economic Growth and Jobs Creation Package

01/29/2003
Voters Reject Measure 28, Legislators Hope To Delay Cuts
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Voters Reject Measure 28, Legislators Hope To Delay Cuts

The Salem Statesman Journal (1/29, Law) reports, "Oregon voters soundly defeated a three-year income and corporate tax increase Tuesday, triggering state trooper layoffs and immediate cuts to public schools, colleges and senior and disabled services." The Statesman Journal continues, "'Measure 28 was a short-term fix to a long-term problem,' said Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat. 'We need to face up to the fact that Oregon is in a recession and our tax structure is such that when the economy takes a downturn, state services take a hit.'" The Statesman Journal adds, "The immediate cuts take place Saturday, under a law passed by the Legislature when it placed Measure 28 on the ballot. ... However, House leaders hope to persuade the Senate and Kulongoski to delay the cuts awhile. They hope to forge a quick agreement to prevent what they call 'lethal cuts.'" The Statesman Journal notes, "Russ Walker, Northwest director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, who opposed Measure 28, said it's time for the Legislature to reprioritize spending. His group wants the state to slash economic development, eliminate the Oregon Cultural Trust and privatize the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, among other ideas."

01/29/2003
Voters Reject Tax Increase
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Voters Reject Tax Increase

BY Jeff Mapes and James Mayer

Summary: Measure 28's demise means cuts in services and keeps intact Oregonians' record of defeating tax proposals Oregon voters on Tuesday rejected a three-year income tax increase, turning aside fears that schools, state police and the needy would be hurt by new budget cuts. The defeat of Measure 28 underscored Oregonians' historic reluctance to approve new taxes of almost any kind. Although voters did agree to raise the cigarette tax last fall, they've never approved a general tax increase of any kind since they adopted the current income-tax system in 1930. In the wake of the defeat, Republican legislators said they'd push to ease the impact of some of the harshest budget cuts, particularly to the mentally ill and the elderly. But Gov. Ted Kulongoski opposes trying to rework the cuts, his spokeswoman Mary Ellen Glynn said Tuesday night. Opponents, who were caught off guard by a rise in support for Measure 28 in recent weeks, were jubilant at its demise. "This is more of a mandate than I thought we'd receive," said Russ Walker of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a pro-business group that opposed the measure. "It really says something about where people's priorities are. . . . They don't buy the line the state is hurting that bad." Supporters said they took comfort that there was a relatively strong vote for the proposed tax increase -- at least compared with many previous tax measures that failed to capture even a third of the voters. "We had great success getting this issue in the forefront," said Kris Kain, president of the Oregon Education Association, the teachers union. "I think it shows people really care about these issues. They disagree, but they really care." Even before the vote, Kulongoski and legislators from both parties had met privately to talk about whether to move away from some of the scheduled cuts if Measure 28 failed. House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, said she particularly wants to look at cuts to mental health care and senior citizen programs that "could absolutely put people out on the street." And Rep. Dan Doyle, R-Salem, is working on a plan that would reduce cuts to the Oregon State Police. Yet Glynn said Kulongoski thinks that "what's done is done" and that the Democratic governor did not want the Legislature bogged down in further debate about what to cut to make up for the failure of Measure 28. "We need to face up to the fact that Oregon is in a recession," Kulongoski said in a statement, "and our tax structure is such that when the economy takes a downturn, state services take a hit." The measure was winning in just four of the 36 counties. It was passing in heavily Democratic Multnomah County, but losing in suburban Clackamas and Washington counties. And the yes margin in Multnomah County was not strong enough to offset the big no vote in the rest of the state. Although the defeat of the proposed tax increase followed a common pattern, the election itself was one of the most unusual in Oregon history. In September, the Legislature referred the proposed three-year tax increase to voters after the recession caused a $2 billion dive in expected revenues for the state's 2001-03 budget. In addition to the Measure 28 income tax increase, lawmakers raised cigarette taxes and delayed an income tax cut. They tapped reserves and used other one-time revenues for $963 million and cut agency budgets by more than $720 million. The referral was a compromise between lawmakers who preferred to impose a temporary tax without sending it to voters and those who wanted to balance the budget with spending cuts. In fact, many legislators who voted to refer the measure to the ballot did so expecting it to fail. Outside the Legislature, the measure's chances were widely derided, but the state's public-employee unions decided they had a chance if they allied themselves with school and social service activists. While opponents largely slumbered, the unions assembled platoons of volunteers who helped wage a campaign that largely flew under the radar. They avoided television, instead using extensive phone banking and carefully targeted radio ads. State agencies, ordered to cut $310 million out of the last five months of the two-year budget cycle, came up with a series of reductions that further spurred the campaign. For example, the Department of Human Services last month sent 63,000 notices to care providers and social-service recipients warning that they faced benefit reductions and cutoffs. Critics complained that the cuts were more harmful than they needed to be, a charge denied by state officials who said they had already made millions of dollars in administrative cuts. By mid-January, a statewide poll showed the measure dead-even in the polls -- the first time in at least two decades that support for a tax hike increased over the course of a campaign. News that the race was close did spark some opposition advertising on radio. And opponents said the relatively heavy turnout for a special election -- it exceeded 60 percent -- showed that both sides were getting their voters to return their ballots. "It takes a lot of pushing from proponents to get the tax measure up," said Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts, "and it doesn't take much for the opponents to push it back down."

01/29/2003
The Rich Are Getting Richer, and So Are the Poor
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Press Release

The Rich Are Getting Richer, and So Are the Poor

© 2002 Copley News Service, 1/28/2003

01/28/2003
If families have to tighten belts, why not Texas?
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Press Release

If families have to tighten belts, why not Texas?

The state's budget shortfall is the proverbial political "hot potato." Republicans now control the governor's mansion, the state Senate and the House for the first time since the 19th century. And they assume this historic role as we are facing a potential $9.9 billion budget shortfall.

01/28/2003
Kyoto Style Cap-and-Trade for the United States?
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Press Release

Kyoto Style Cap-and-Trade for the United States?

January 27, 2003 The Honorable George W. Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President: We are writing to reiterate our concerns about the Administration’s plan to award regulatory offsets ("transferable credits") to companies that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

01/27/2003
President Bush Names CSE President Paul Beckner to Trade Advisory Group
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Press Release

President Bush Names CSE President Paul Beckner to Trade Advisory Group

On January 15, President Bush named CSE President Paul Beckner to a two-year term on an administration advisory panel on trade. The Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations was established in 1974 and consists of 45 representatives from key sectors of the economy. Its purpose is to advise U.S. negotiators as they formulate trade policies and agreements with other nations.

01/27/2003

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