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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Salem suddenly awash with cash for toys

In Oregon, forestry is a wonderful science. Recent advances by the state's arborists have culminated in the development of new species of trees on which money grows. There's no other way to explain this week's news rolling out of Salem.

First we've got the governor's plan to increase gas taxes and vehicle registration fees to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for transportation projects. Now, a lot of that makes sense, as those charges haven't been increased in years, even for routine inflation, and it doesn't take too long a drive in most parts of the state to come upon a road or a bridge that's fallen into disrepair. But it's the fine print that drives you nuts: "He also would borrow $600 million, raise the tobacco tax by 2½ cents and take $16 million in lottery money to pay for railroad, mass transit and port projects."

Ah, yes. Those "port projects." Hey, Governor Ted, come on. At least if we're talking about the Port of Portland (run top to bottom by the governor's cronies), it's a cash cow. They've got money for a completely unnecessary new office building out at the airport, and a costly headquarters move -- let them find their own pork. And "mass transit"? No doubt more streetcars to try to save the moribund condo-oops-apartment developer set, and too late at that. Just what we need.

Then there are the good old boys at Oregon Health and Sciences University and Health Club, who have their hand out for a huge pile of dough to build their dream campus down in the failed mud pit known as the SoWhat District:

The immediate translation: On top of its inflation-adjusted base appropriation from the state -- $88 million -- OHSU is asking Gov. Ted Kulongoski to request an additional $40 million to plug the medical school funding gap, plus $10 million for programs designed to address a looming shortage of doctors and nurses, particularly in rural areas of the state....

OHSU hopes the state will tap its borrowing capacity to stimulate OHSU construction on Portland's South Waterfront. Specifically, the university is asking the state to issue $175 million in bonds -- paid back by taxpayers -- to help fund the first building in a new South Waterfront medical campus. OHSU has a $40 million anonymous gift to use on the project, and hopes the collaborative nature of the project -- the building would house programs from all the major schools in the Oregon University System -- will persuade the Legislature to chip in.

Recession? What recession?

When the tighty righties complain about the "tax, borrow, and spend" cycle that the Democratic Party usually brings us, I'm usually not impressed. At least the Democrats spend money on helping people, rather than killing them. And by adding taxes to the Republican mix of "borrow and spend," at least the blue lawmakers make a gesture toward fiscal responsibility.

But when you see us go deep into hock for junk projects like a new Port of Portland headquarters, miles and miles of spendy streetcar toys, and Oz-like palaces for the rich docs at OHSU, you feel a little ashamed of how our "progressive" leaders act -- and to whom they answer -- once they get themselves elected.

You kids with no medical care: Hang in there, we'll get to you... eventually.

Comments (12)

OHSU focuses on everything but training more general practice physicians and nurses. Land development, check. New age spas, check. Virus research in Florida, check. Declining medical student class size, check.

This is all so depressing!
I just want to slap our "Uncle Ted" up the side of the head and say, "You are not thinking straight; get over yourself!".
During this time or having some hope that our nation can come together and work to solve our problems, here in our state the so called liberal government is just behaving badly and irresponsibly.
I would write to the governor but I really do not believe that the folks in Salem are in the frame of mind to listen to anyone but each other.
All that money could be used for the greater good to really improve the lives of thousands of people who really need the assistance, especially now.
As a liberal, I am ashamed of our governor and his policies to enrich those who are rich enough, need no help at all.

OHSU has to be one of the worst-run organizations I know of. Constantly strapped for money for their basic operations, yet casting about to add expensive facilities and new staff. (Somehow I suspect it's run by previous doctors instead of business people.)

I disagree insofar as you suggest that funds shouldn't be available for expansion of mass transit. The problem is, like "transportation," "mass transit" includes both IMO valuable projects like the MAX expansion and toys like the streetcars.

I'm excited about the Trimet expansion (WES) into Tualatin.

As I've said before, the frequent criticism of the Trimet system is that is is not "mass." However, you have to put in the transit first (and then encourage it). Instead of building more garages and subsidizing downtown parking, Portland needs to create more financial incentives to put the masses on mass transit.

Speaking of mass transit: why does Tri Met send its small army of fare inspectors to the King's Hill platform almost every single morning? (Six out of the last seven since November 3.) Why don't they just send out a press release that westside commuters who don't want to pay the fare should just get out at the Goose Hollow stop?

Here's OHSU's definition for "medical care".

Have 450 doctors from Pill Hill build a building with a health club and a few other offices in SoWhat;

allow the doctors tax exemption status thus not paying any property taxes nor any other taxes to help pay back the public's $289M investment in SoWhat;

give them $7.2 Million to put into the building to make ready-to-use bio-tech spaces but not having one bio-tech job ever developed;

now ask the legislature for a bailout to help pay for OHSU to become a "partner" with the doctors to buy their building because it is failing as a money generator for the docs.

Those of you making remarks about the US Congress bailout programs need to look right here in Oregon and Portland for the same kind of thinking. Doctors, developers, politicians talk about taking a "risk", but it is the taxpayers that are left paying for the so-called risk.

This is one of the things I really dislike about the Democratic Party, and I appreciate you mentioning something about it here, Jack. They run on a platform of increasing taxes to help the little guy, but 95% of the stuff they do not only doesn't help the little guy, but is very wasteful. While I'm one who prefers low taxes, low spending, and little government involvement in the day to day lives of citizens, I still choose to live near Portland. Democratic rule will probably never go away around these parts, so instead I make a simple request: If you have to tax us into oblivion, please spend my hard earned money on something worth while.

What good would it do to slap Teddy? There are a couple of hundred just like him in Salem.

The plot is remarkably simple, yet the voters still haven't learned. Tell the taxpayers we'll give you what you want if you give us more taxes. Then when they get more taxes spend it on what they want anyways. This is the way this state works - I mean how much tobacco settelment money goes to taking care of people who suffered from cigarettes, like maybe 0.1%?

That's the worst thing about the tax measures is that most of them passed, so now it's field day. Yet we'll still have crappy schools and roads and collapsing infrastructure when its all done.

Why don't they just send out a press release that westside commuters who don't want to pay the fare should just get out at the Goose Hollow stop?

I think the last westbound stop in "Faceless Square" is at the Galleria.

So, didn't OHSU just get a humongous windfall grant from the Knights? And now they need more?

I walked through downtown today from SW 18th to the waterfront and it was not a nice experience. Empty storefronts with "for lease" signs, loud, noisy condo development with sidewalks closed. A plethora of street people pushing carts, lying in doorways and panhandling. Lots of convenience stores. The neverending MAX construction. The grey, drizzly rain actually felt like a highpoint.

OHSU is melting down under the the weight of gross mismanagement and reckless expansion investment that has been worsened by the economy and loss of their tort cap.

Not a single public official should be sympathetic and consider any public bailout until a complete audit of their entire operation is provided.

The PDC must also come clean on precisely how much money they have handed over to OHSU, what they were to get for it and where those deals stand today.

The PDC must be subjected to a complete outside audit as well.

The propagandizing and cover ups occuring at both these entities in unacceptable.
There's not a single public official who has been provided anything resembling a full accounting for the MANY 100s of millions in tax dollars devoured behind the scenes.

Who need doctors, or Portland's largest employer for that matter? Health care takes public funding, especially health care education and research. If you don't want to pay for it in your taxes, we can begin an era where only the wealthy get care, and you can very possibly be left out. I'm not against an audit, or fiscal responsibility, but when i hear ignorant ranting about rich greedy doctors (i am not a doctor, or medical student), and evil OHSU, I can't help but find the comments ridiculous. OHSU brings revenue into this state, to bring more revenue and keep up with other institutions, it takes an investment.

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