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Saturday, September 25, 2010 9:35 PM

Cold Hard Reality Hits Oregon, Treasurer Calls for Halt in State Borrowing, Postponement of Pressing Needs

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At long last the truth in Oregon's finances is plain for everyone to see. Please consider Oregon's Treasurer calls for halt in state borrowing

Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler wants the Legislature to cut up its credit cards before convening in January as the combination of plummeting revenues and past borrowing threaten to lower Oregon's credit scores and increase future borrowing costs.

Wheeler on Friday called for a halt on new borrowing backed by the state's general fund until its finances recover. The recommendation was unanimously endorsed at a special meeting Thursday of the state's Debt Policy Advisory Commission.

Based on the latest shrinking revenue projections, the commission also has asked the Department of Administrative Services to "reconsider the timing" of some projects that have been approved by lawmakers but for which the bonds have not yet been issued.

That list includes a wide mix of pressing needs and stimulus measures around the state, from the new state hospital, a collaborative research building at Oregon Health & Science University, a statewide emergency radio network and a slew of projects at community colleges.

"This is the cold, hard reality," Wheeler said, "and I'd rather raise it now so when my colleagues in the Legislature convene in January, there are no surprises and they are fully familiar with that reality."

While general obligation bonds are typically used to finance big capital projects with an extended life, lawmakers have tapped them to fund operating costs in the past. The state borrowed $431 million in 2003 to cover operating expenses as it struggled to recover from the last recession. It will be repaying those bonds in $70 million installments until 2013, which will free up borrowing capacity in 2014.

Until then, the state's capacity for new debt is essentially zero, according to a report delivered to the debt policy advisory committee from Treasury's debt management division.
Mistakes a Plenty

Borrowing money to cover operating expenses is just plain stupid. The results speak for themselves. Oregon is out of borrowing capacity until 2014 and it is currently deep in the hole on revenues. That is a toxic mix.

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, who co-chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said "the Legislature has carefully managed borrowing to stay within the 5 percent limit and will continue to do so."

Anyone who thinks Oregon has "carefully managed" this mess is an incompetent fool.
Rep. Peter Buckley should be ousted.

Pressing Needs?

Just look at the nonsense labeled "pressing needs"
  • New state hospital
  • A collaborative research building at Oregon Health & Science University
  • A statewide emergency radio network
  • Slew of projects at community colleges

There is not a damn one of those things that can remotely be considered a "pressing need". Indeed, If I was an Oregon Taxpayer, I would hope every one of them is not just postponed but scrapped.

It's stupid stuff like that that helped get Oregon in this mess. Moreover, and more critically, Oregon also has the same as every other state: unaffordable union salaries and pensions.

Critical Problems

Oregon has several major problems.

  • Those in office cannot distinguish between a desire and a "pressing need"
  • The legislature is beholden to public unions
  • Most of the Democrats thinks the solution is to tax everyone to death to make up for falling revenues

Genuine Pressing Needs

Oregon needs a change in governorship and the state legislature.

It's time to boot governor Ted R. Kulongoski and all the idiots who cannot distinguish between a desire and a pressing need. Most importantly, Oregonians need to elect candidates for every office willing to take on the public unions as has New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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