Monday, April 11, 2011

Rep. Richardson: Oregon's Political War Has Begun

REP. DENNIS RICHARDSON (R-Central Point), 4/7/2011 NEWSLETTER - The “Co-Chairs Budget” was the subject of last week’s newsletter. It was signed by my two Democrat Ways & Means Co-Chairs, Senator Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin), Representative Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) and me. ∴ This Co-Chairs Budget was agreed upon after weeks of daily meetings and negotiations between the Democrat and Republican Co-Chairs. ∴ While Oregon’s fiscal problems are being addressed in a bipartisan manner requiring thoughtful and well-reasoned compromise, it was disappointing to learn that three of Oregon’s most powerful political groups, the Oregon Education Association (OEA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are now trying to disrupt this bipartisan work through deception, intimidation and demagoguery. ∴ Consider the deceit in their political attack ad now being aired from Portland to Ashland: Click Here. Unfortunately it has caused anxiety and fear for vulnerable and confused seniors who have been deceived by it.

We three Co-Chairs and the rest of your Democrat and Republican legislators on the Ways and Means Committee are working together to face the reality of a difficult state economy. Such is not the case with three of Oregon’s most powerful unions, the OEA, AFSCME and SEIU. Instead, they collaborate and propagate lies. Their ad says: “Richardson wants to make drastic cuts to services we depend on … so Richardson can keep more than $440 million in unspent funds for his political priorities.”

This statement is false. The ending balance belongs to all Oregonians for protection from further recessionary pain.

As far as I am concerned, the airing of this fear-mongering statewide political attack ad is intended as a warning to other Legislators. They want to scare them into dancing to the unions’ tune, or risk being the subject of the next attack ad. The goal is to motivate the “unions’ legislators” to abandon fiscal prudence and perpetuate Oregon’s history of unsustainable spending. It was this kind of denial of economic reality that has grown Oregon’s all-funds budget by 50% in just the last four years.

Meanwhile, these very same public employee unions stand against every government reform intended to stabilize Oregon’s out-of-control spending, including the reforms suggested by former Governor Kulongoski’s Reset Cabinet and those proposed in Governor Kitzhaber’s recommended budget.

People in Oregon are tired of such negative political smear campaigns, and long for truth, transparency and meaningful reform. For the past decade Oregon unemployment has been above the national average. Yet during this same period, Oregonians have watched state government spending balloon by more than 100% in only ten years.

While hundreds of thousands of Oregon workers have taken pay cuts or lost their jobs, these public employee unions have negotiated sweetheart benefit deals, automatic pay increases and lucrative retirement packages. Even Wisconsin’s employee unions have allowed something to be paid by their members toward their retirement plans and health benefits. But not Oregon.

The attack ad states, “Richardson wants to make drastic cuts to services we depend on….” It implies the “we” are seniors, kids and vulnerable Oregonians. In fact, the opposite is true. The unions are angry because I suggest that their union members pay something toward their retirement and group insurance plans, which would free-up hundreds of millions of precious dollars that could provide services vital for Oregon’s most vulnerable seniors, disabled and children.

Oregon has great teachers who are members of the OEA, and dedicated public servants who are members of AFSCME and SEIU. These teachers and public workers should be embarrassed. While they work hard and earn their pay, their union bosses and lobbyists wield political power like aristocrats and take home six-figure paychecks, while acting as if they have actually contributed something to society.

The public sector unions get their employers to collect their union dues for them, which they use to recruit, fund and elect “their legislators.” These legislators pass pro-union legislation that gives the union members favored pensions, positions and pay. Such “sweetheart” union power brokering is incestuous and is threatening the financial stability of our local, state and federal government.

Political war has been declared against me and other fiscal conservatives by the OEA, AFSCME and SEIU. I am unimpressed. I will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats to pass a balanced budget that will meet the needs of Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens with the revenue we have available.

If we win, we pass the best balanced budget possible, end this legislative session and go home. In short, if we win, Oregon wins.


Dennis Richardson
State Representative


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