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Ditch Mitch As Majority Leader - October 2017

Ditch Mitch As Majority Leader - October 2017

DITCH MITCH
AS SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

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.C. Senate Democrats Sell Need for More Taxes
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.C. Senate Democrats Sell Need for More Taxes

BY Scott Mooneyham

Senate leaders continued their call Monday for additional taxes or lottery revenues to help balance the state budget, but saw a carefully scripted meeting undermined by anti-tax protesters. Senate Democrats had lined up a number of educators - including university system president Molly Broad and state community college system president Martin Lancaster - to speak about the destructive effects of more budget cuts at an afternoon meeting. But several dozen members of the anti-tax group Citizens for a Sound Economy greeted them, denouncing tax hikes and a lottery as unnecessary. "You have just about broken our backs," said Robin Stout, a CSE member from Orange County. "Please consider the taxpayers. We are watching." The Senate and House are locked in budget negotiations, with House leaders saying they have given as much as possible on the issue of taxes. The House and Senate have agreed to keep sales and income tax hikes adopted in 2001 as temporary measures in place for another two years. House budget negotiators have also agreed to a Senate proposal to make the sales taxes on soft drinks conform to the 4.5 percent for other nonfood items. Senate leaders, though, want additional revenue in the form of either alcohol or cigarette tax hikes, or a lottery. Despite a one-time federal infusion of $510 million, they say a weak economy and lower-than-expected tax collections means that projected revenue growth in a $15 billion state budget should be scaled back. Lower revenue projects, along with sluggish tax collections this year, means the state will have to plug a $600 million hole in the budget. House leaders look at the federal aid as largely fixing the budget problems for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Their plan does leave what is essentially a $200 million hole in the second year of the two-year budget by designating unspecified Medicaid savings. Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said the state's taxpayers should be prepared for some unpopular budget cutting if they don't want to discuss additional steps to raise revenue. "I want to know what people think about cutting $600 million out of where we already stand," Rand said. "What, $360 million out of education. Is that OK?" Broad added that the university system, despite enrollment growth and money designated by lawmakers to meet it, has still seen its budget decline. "It is no longer achievable to protect the classroom with these budget cuts," Broad said. The House and Senate are trying to put together a budget deal before the July 1 start of the fiscal year. By doing so, the Legislature would prevent the 2001 tax hikes from expiring and eliminate the need to pass a separate revenue bill.

06/09/2003
Senate Seeks to Alter Lawmakers' Benefits
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Senate Seeks to Alter Lawmakers' Benefits

BY Steve Law

A bill OK'd Friday guts a preferred PERS status reserved for police and firefighters. How senators voted The Senate passed HB 2407-C by a 16-11 margin. The bill reduces lawmakers PERS benefits by paying them at the regular level, not the higher levels given to police and firefighters. Lawmakers who began serving before 1995 are exempt. Here is how local senators voted: Roger Beyer, R-Molalla: No Peter Courtney, D-Salem: Yes Jackie Winters, R-Salem: No Gary George, R-Newberg: Excused Charles Starr, R-Hillsboro: No What's next? The House will consider Senate amendments to HB 2407-C. The House likely will reject those amendments. Then a conference committee of House and Senate delegates will try to work out conflicting versions of the bill. BY STEVE LAW Statesman Journal The state House and Senate are at odds about whether lawmakers should remain in the state pension system. House members voted in March to yank lawmakers from the embattled Public Employees Retirement System and create a special 401(k) plan for them. Rejecting that idea, the Senate voted Friday to reduce lawmakers' PERS benefits, by eliminating their preferred benefits package normally reserved for police and firefighters. The Senate passed House Bill 2407-C by a 16-11 margin. "It's unjust enrichment" to keep getting benefits as if lawmakers were in public safety jobs, said Sen. Tony Corcoran, D-Cottage Grove, whose committee reworked the earlier House bill. Preferred PERS benefits for lawmakers often provokes howls of protest. It allows lawmakers to get the same pension after 25 years that most public employees take 30 years to earn. Police and firefighters get that treatment because of their hazardous jobs and earlier retirement age. In the past, some lawmakers determined that their long hours and low pay - $15,396 a year- merited the premium level. House members argued it's a conflict of interest for lawmakers to oversee a system that pays them benefits. Corcoran rejected that notion Friday. "My view is that there's nothing inherently wrong with us being part of PERS," he said. "We should live under the same rules as everybody else." Public servants should have a guaranteed benefit at the end of their careers, not a 401(k) account that offers no set pension, Corcoran added. Sen. Lenn Hannon, R-Ashland, who presided over the floor debate, declared he had a conflict of interest in the matter. Hannon also suggested lawmakers all had a conflict of interest "as a class." One provision in the bill illustrated why the issue stirs so much controversy. It exempts lawmakers who first served in the Legislature before 1995. That means six veteran lawmakers who voted for the bill won't see any reduced benefits: Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, Senate Democratic Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland, Sen. Frank Shields, D-Portland, Sen. Joan Dukes, D-Astoria, Sen. Avel Gordly, D-Portland and Sen. John Minnis, R-Wood Village. "They've exempted longtime serving members from having to switch," said House Majority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, who championed the House bill. "It's the exact reason that legislators need to be removed from PERS completely, so they don't continue to deal themselves the best deal." A few days before Friday's vote, Courtney said he wasn't following Senate changes to the House bill and the issue hadn't come up for much discussion. "I think treating (lawmakers) like everybody else might be the way to go," he said. New PERS reforms signed into law will phase out the Money Match system. That means future pensions will be set by workers' final salary and years worked, not the size of their accounts. Police and firefighters get a pension equaling 2 percent of their final salary for every year on the job, or 50 percent of their final salary after 25 years. General service PERS members get 1.67 percent of salary per year worked, or 50 percent of final salary after 30 years. "To take them out of police and fire, I think, was a good idea," said Russ Walker, a PERS critic and Northwest director of Citizens for a Sound Economy. But no lawmakers should remain in PERS, he said. "There's a real loss of trust in government and most public officials, and this kind of thing, I don't know if it serves them well." Walker said his group will turn in an initiative petition next week that would scrap PERS for all public employees and replace it with a 401(k) plan.

06/09/2003
U-M's Admissions Policy Is Racist
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Press Release

U-M's Admissions Policy Is Racist

As published in the Ann Arbor News, June 9, 2003 In a recent debate with Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University and the named defendant in the University of Michigan race cases before the Supreme Court this year, NBC's Matt Lauer asked Mr. Bollinger: "Can you have diversity at our universities and schools without taking race into account?" Mr. Bollinger responded: "You really can't."

06/09/2003
N.C. Senate Democrats sell need for more taxes
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Press Release

N.C. Senate Democrats sell need for more taxes

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Senate leaders continued their call Monday for additional taxes or lottery revenues to help balance the state budget, but saw a carefully scripted meeting undermined by anti-tax protesters. Senate Democrats had lined up a number of educators -- including university system president Molly Broad and state community college system president Martin Lancaster -- to speak about the destructive effects of more budget cuts at an afternoon meeting.

06/09/2003
This Week on Capitol Hill
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Press Release

This Week on Capitol Hill

Congress is off to the races as a number of major legislative initiatives jockey for consideration on the floor of the House. While Funny Cide failed to win the Triple Crown in the mud at Belmont this past weekend, Congress is chomping at the bit with its own Trifecta: Spend, Spend Some More, and Spend Even More Than That.

06/09/2003
Levin Greeted by Protesters
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Press Release

Levin Greeted by Protesters

06/09/2003
Michigan CSE Rally Targets Senator Levin
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Press Release

Michigan CSE Rally Targets Senator Levin

Brighton, MI -- The Livingston County Chapter of Michigan Citizens for a Sound Economy (MI CSE) led a rally over the weekend against Senator Carl Levin’s obstruction of President Bush’s judicial nominations for the Sixth District Court of Appeals. The rally, led by Livingston County MI CSE Chapter Leader Steve Williams, was held outside of the Livingston County Democratic Party Dinner on Sunday, where Senator Levin was the featured guest.

06/09/2003
CSE Opposes Ohio Tax Increases
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Press Release

CSE Opposes Ohio Tax Increases

The tax-and-spenders are on the march in Ohio, and Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) Members are rallying to stop the latest effort to take even more money from overtaxed Ohio families. Last week, the Ohio State Senate Finance Committee approved tax increase legislation by a 12-1 vote, followed by a full Senate vote of 24-9 in favor. The bill proposes raising the state sales tax by one cent for "two years" and increasing the minimum tax on corporations with over 300 employees from $50 to $1000. Paul Beckner, President of Citizens for a Sound Economy, commented:

06/09/2003
Taxes won't increase, but many fees will
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Taxes won't increase, but many fees will

BY John Moritz

AUSTIN - Putting an exclamation point on a legislative session that opened with lawmakers facing a $9.9 billion shortfall, the all-Republican leadership team gave itself a pat on the back for not raising taxes. "State leaders showed the kind of budgetary discipline families must show: We set priorities, separated wants from needs and stretched every dollar," Gov. Rick Perry said a day after lawmakers finished their business. "We protected the pocketbooks of Texas taxpayers while protecting vital programs, increasing funding for public education and health care."

06/08/2003
Taxes Won't Increase, but Many Fees Will
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Taxes Won't Increase, but Many Fees Will

BY John Moritz

AUSTIN--Putting an exclamation point on a legislative session that opened with lawmakers facing a $9.9 billion shortfall, the all-Republican leadership team gave itself a pat on the back for not raising taxes. "State leaders showed the kind of budgetary discipline families must show: We set priorities, separated wants from needs and stretched every dollar," Gov. Rick Perry said a day after lawmakers finished their business. "We protected the pocketbooks of Texas taxpayers while protecting vital programs, increasing funding for public education and health care." But where Perry and others see discipline, Capitol critics see dodged responsibility. "Let's just say that some pocketbooks got protected more than others," said Richard Kouri, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association. "Every school employee in the state lost $500 for insurance, and we also saw a doubling of the amount active employees pay into the health insurance system for retired teachers." And school employees aren't the only ones who are going to see a bigger bite taken out of their paychecks after the 140-day legislative session that ended Monday. Following the agenda set by state leaders, lawmakers also pared back the rolls for human services programs, dramatically jacked up the fines for traffic violations and opened the door to higher tuition at the state's premier universities. To comply with federal clean-air mandates, lawmakers also increased from $13 to $33 the vehicle-transfer fee paid by car buyers in high-pollution areas such as Fort Worth-Dallas. Under the same measure, car buyers in less polluted areas will now pay $28. Also, the fines for many traffic offenses will be raised by $30, with the bulk of the money going to fund trauma centers. In addition, Texas will adopt a point system to punish drivers who receive multiple traffic tickets. For example, a typical speeding ticket would be worth two points, and causing an accident would be three points. Motorists who rack up six points over 36 months will have to pay a $100 surcharge to keep their licenses. Additional fines will be assessed at $25 per point. The state will also assess a $1,000 surcharge for first convictions for driving while intoxicated. Those who drove without a license or with a suspended license will be fined an additional $100. State university boards of regents can now set tuition rates. The new policy, which ends the long-standing practice of uniform tuition set by the Legislature, will not take effect until the spring 2004 semester, so it remains unclear which universities will increase rates. To help offset any increase brought about by the deregulation of tuition, the Legislature increased need-based grants for college students from $280 million to $324 million. However, that still falls $89 million short of what the Higher Education Coordinating Board sought for all eligible students expected to apply. As a result, eligibility requirements may be tightened. Fees for hunting and fishing licenses will rise starting Aug. 15, but not because of an act of the Legislature. Last month, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted to increase the price of both from $19 to $23. A combination license will cost $42 instead of $32. Advocates for reduced government spending give the lawmakers and the governor high marks for putting the concerns of taxpayers first. An effort to raise the cigarette tax by $1 a pack failed without so much as a hearing in committee. The same was true for a proposal to allow voters to decide whether Texas should levy a personal income tax. "I think this was a very good session for taxpayers, no question about it," said Peggy Venable, who heads the conservative watchdog group Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. "I think the governor and the leadership team deserves high marks for saying they weren't going to raise taxes and sticking to it." Anne Dunkelberg, an analyst for the liberal-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities, pointed out that the rolls for the state-backed Children's Health Insurance Program will be cut by about 170,000 and that the hours will be curtailed for the Medicaid-funded home health aides who help the disabled. "All they [lawmakers] did was shift the costs down to the local governments, and that will mean higher taxes at the city and county level," Dunkelberg said. "They are the ones who will have to take up the slack." Bill Allaway, president of the nonpartisan Texas Taxpayers Research Organization, said it's too soon to calculate the full impact of the budget. But he said he doubts that local governments will institute huge tax increases or slash services. "There's a little bit of truth to both of those, but in reality, nobody really knows yet," Allaway said. "Personally, I don't think there is going to be as big a hue and cry as some might imply. But it remains an incomplete picture right now." Early indications are that Tarrant County was spared many of the ill effects expected from state cutbacks. Tom Roy, the Tarrant County Hospital District's government affairs liaison, said that when the ominous talk of steep budget reductions was initiated by top state officials, it appeared that the cost to the district would reach as high as $28.5 million. That number is now estimated at $4.5 million and could drop to about $515,000 if Tarrant County receives its share of a $1.28 billion federal grant announced last month. "The best way to put it from our point of view is that we dodged a great big bullet," Roy said. Staff Writers Gordon Dickson, Jim Fuquay, Mark Horvit, Jan Jarvis, Patrick Mcgee, Mitch Mitchell, Diane Smith, Neil Strassman and Anna M. Tinsley Contributed to This Report.

06/08/2003

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