There are thousands of vacant state employee positions where no one is working but the position still receives funding. At one point Oregon had 4,475 vacant positions. That is more than 10% of the entire state workforce. Vacant positions cost the state nearly 300 million in tax dollars. State Representative Gene Whisnant has been working to pass a bill to eliminate vacant positions that remain open so that the funds can be returned.
Corvallis-to-Newberg 10-mile road costs went from $129 million to $365 million due to cost over-runs, landslides, and other problems. They had to tear down bridge pillars they just built. (KATU-2 5-20-2014)
Oregon has doled out $968 million in energy business taxes to various energy companies, many of which have gone bankrupt or are being investigated for fraud. (Portland Tribune 6-23-2015)
The government unions fought changes in the courts to their state pension plan which will now cost taxpayers $345 million more a year. Government unions have been resisting any changes to their PERS pension system which is over $10 billion in debt. (Oregonian 5-30-2015)
After spending $586 million in projected costs, instead of 300 new emergency towers (OWIN) as budgeted, Oregon taxpayers got a grand total of 30 repaired or new towers.
Portland has agreed to unionize 80 seasonal park workers which will cost taxpayers $2 million more in additional costs. It will cost the city $25,000 more per employee. (Oregonian 7-17-2015)
Taxpayers spent over $200 million studying the Columbia River Crossing Bridge, from Portland to Vancouver, that was never built and mired in controversy.
- Portland’s most expensive employee, (chief administrator $371,000) was fired and awarded a $192,000 severance. (Oregonian 4-24-2015)
- Portland alone has paid $5 million to terminated employees.
- After having problems with the City Council, the West Linn city manager left with a $120,000 severance. (Oregonian 8-12-2015)
- An audit faulted Portland’s Environmental Bureau Director for wasting $3 million due to poor oversight. The Director resigned with a full year’s $200,000 severance.
Cover Oregon offered as much as $650,000 to 160 employees not to leave the failed website project.
The University of Oregon spent $24,000 to bring in a sex columnist, Dan Savage, to town to give a speech about sex. His speech included information about the sex lives of people who wear gorilla suits. The $24,000 speech provided in-depth intellectual insight — especially when Mr. Savage responded to one student’s question with “F*** if I know!” The University also hoped Dan Savage would promote their new college sex-game phone app. Ironically, the University has been very public about its sex life, but extremely private about how they spend our tax dollars since the $24,000 speech scandal was only revealed by a public records request from the local newspaper. The same University just approved 12% raises over three years, plus six weeks of new paid family leave. (Eugene Register-Guard 1-8-2013, Campus Faculty Association 10-13-2013)
$940,000 in Portland rate dollars to build an exorbitant “Water House” a modern role model house for water usage. It was soon later sold off for $395,000.
About $15 million was wasted by the Employment Department on new failed software.
A former Clackamas County tourism officer was found guilty of gross misuse of tax dollars and using the County credit card for exorbitant personal use. Starla Schur used County funds to fly her and friends all over America including Florida, North Dakota & California. She used funds to help pay for her daughter’s wedding. The official even used the money to help purchase 20 units of Botox to make herself look younger. Starla, a 15-year government employee, admitted her guilt and was sent to jail. (Oregonian 5-22-2014)
It will cost taxpayers $7.3 million to replace the Portland Morrison Bridge Deck two years after it was done. The deck was so defective it could not be repaired and had to be replaced. “Oregon is nation’s biggest user of street fees.”
- A judge has ruled that the Dept. of Labor forcefully coerced two Oregon farmers to pay a fine before they were found guilty.
- It began when the DOL accused two Oregon blueberry farmers of not paying their workers properly. They told the farmers that if they refused to pay $220,000 and waive their right to challenge the findings, the DOL would declare their crops were “hot goods,” making it illegal to ship them. Grocery stores selling their blueberries would have to pull them from their shelves. Rather than lose their crops, the farmers agreed.
- A federal judge ordered the DOA to give the full $220,000 back because the DOA used “economic coercion” and never proved that the farmers were guilty as charged. However, the DOA already hastily doled out the $73,500 to the workers and refused to give this money back to the farmers.
- The farmers are currently fighting the DOL in court to get their money back.
Last May, Oregon paid $900K to settle claims with two former high-level employees, $600K to the employees and $300K to their respective attorneys. Oregon agreed to pay $450K to Rob Killgore, the former head of Oregon Corrections Enterprises, after he filed a wrongful termination suit seeking $1.5 million. Rather than go to trial, the state settled with Killgore but denied any wrongdoing. Ten days later, the state agreed to pay $450K to George Dunford, a chief administrative officer of the Employment Department, after he filed a tort claim (i.e., an intent to sue) alleging he had been wrongfully fired and claiming whistle-blower protection. As a result of Dunsford’s complaints, there was a major shake-up of the top managers of the Employment Department. (Statesman Journal 09-21-2014, 10-07-2014)
- Oregon has already paid out more than $1.1 million in legal fees in its fight against Oracle, the company that built the failed Cover Oregon health exchange, and the battle has only just begun.
- The state is suing even though it had full control and ignored numerous audit warnings. One former Cover Oregon official was awarded $70,000 to help sue the company.
- The case will likely cost Oregon taxpayers millions more and could last for years. Even if Oregon should win, state officials aren’t sure any money received would actually go to the state. (Oregonian 10-07-2014)
During the two-week government shutdown, 4,400 federal workers in Oregon applied for unemployment benefits. This allowed many to collect both an unemployment check and a federal paycheck for missing pay for when the shut-down was resolved and back payments were made. Oregon happily doled out $830,000 in these double dipping unemployment benefits, yet it was the Federal Labor Dept. that felt embarrassed and enacted rule changes making such double payouts unlawful. (Washington Post 10-23-13)
- Not a single Oregonian has been enrolled in Obamacare’s “Cover Oregon” website despite the spending over $82 million in tax dollars. Oregon was one of the first to start early on the website and was awarded the third largest federal grant to build the exchange, yet now it is among the worst in the nation.
- In total, the federal government has spent more than a half billion on this project. Some forecast using GAO estimates that may cost $2 billion to run the exchanges in 2014. Not only is the project expensive but it was built with several no-bid contracting. With no-bid contracting, you lose transparency and accountability which often results in flawed government projects where taxpayers pick up the bill.
- What you can buy with Food Stamps may anger you!
- A Starbucks in a Salem Safeway gleefully advertised on their doors that they “accept food stamps” where they can be used to buy Frappuccino cold drinks and pastries. This is in addition to using food stamps to buy candy, soda pop, cookies, ice cream, and birthday cakes. A Washington D.C. reporter tried to use his food stamps to buy the most expensive items in the store. He came away buying swordfish steak ($18/pound), $8 gallon of goat milk, $14 Chanterelle mushrooms, and fancy European cheese. (KPTV-12 12-12-2011, Daily Caller 12-7-2010)
- Because students don’t work while studying, they easily qualify for food stamps and are famous for using them to subsidize their alcohol parties as they buy appetizers, snacks, and mixed liquor drink accessories (tonic water, limes, and lemons). Watching someone buy groceries with food stamps while paying cash for their lottery tickets and cigarettes is a proud Oregon liberal tradition (just don’t dare use a plastic bag, because that’s apparently wasteful).
For a while, Oregon was one of three states identified that allowed applicants to deduct medical marijuana expenses from their income so they could better qualify for food stamps. It wasn’t until it was made public that the state reversed its policy. (Oregonian 7-12-2012)
The Human Services Dept. has been openly and diligently trying to identify new food stamp customers to enroll who are not even asking for it. Their efforts played a role in helping increase food stamp rolls by 60% and have been rewarded by the federal government. Oregon put out a proud press release announcing that they were awarded five million dollars for their food stamp recruitment efforts. Their efforts help rank Oregon as the second highest state in the proportion of its population under food stamps. That amounts to 785,000 people, roughly one of every five people in Oregon. When food stamps started in the 1970s only 1 in 50 people were on food stamps, now it is 1 in 7 nationally. It costs Americans $78 billion.
—DHS Press Release 9-28-2011, Huffington Post 7-13-2012, SNAP Questions & Answers USDA website 2012, Wall Street Journal 6-20-2012
A federal government press release touted that for every $5 spent in food stamps it creates nearly $10 in “economic activity for the community.” The logic is that you can double an economy with government payouts. Since the federal Food Stamp budget nearly tripled in size in the past three years do you honestly feel the tripling of economic activity coming from it in 2012? The USDA also created short soap opera radio ads where the characters happily sign up for food stamps. The ads were canceled after public outcry. (Fox News 7-13-2012)
The Oregon Sustainability Center costs $65 million of public funds (bonds, property taxes) and exceeds 20% of the price of an average building. It includes 60,000 square feet of solar panels, a 200,000-gallon cistern bucket to collect rainwater, and a 200-foot underground geothermal well. Taxpayers foot the bill by $240,000 if it fails to get renters.
Tri-Met is building a quarter million dollar baby-faced deer statue called “rebirth” despite a $17 million budget gap and declining bus routes.
After 15 years of planning and $150 million spent on the Columbia River Crossing, a shovel has yet to be laid or final design decided. The staggering $3.5 billion plan adds no new (long-distance) lane capacity to the bridge it is replacing. One person was paid $10,000/month to sell the bridge to the public.
- State employees’ total travel cost taxpayers $40 million a year (world and local travel). The Oregon Lottery sent their marketing director to Europe to learn about online gaming. The trip helped the Director create the idea behind the failed “Orcade” project which created a public backlash for its gambling appeal to minors. The governor shut down the site and the Director resigned.
- Another state director (Psychologist Examiners Board) spent $10,000 traveling to meetings held in places like Disney World Florida and a resort in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
- In just one year, Portland Mayor Sam Adams traveled to Brazil, Spain, Germany, Japan, and China. This was often at taxpayer expense and to attend climate change summits and other non-mayoral related environmental conferences.
- Five Secretary of State employees racked up $10,000 in travel expenses for a conference in a resort casino in Central Oregon. That amounts to costing $2,000 per person to travel in-state to attend classes which were on “self-awareness” and “communication skills”. How about reading a book next time?
- Four Salem School Board members spent $4,500 to attend a conference in Portland (just 46 miles away!!!).
- A state disability official racked up $35,000 in travel expenses for commuting from her home in Eastern Oregon to Salem.
- While some agencies splurged on travel, other responsible agencies cut their travel budgets by 35% to deal with budget cut-backs – just like Oregon families do. (Portland Online 11-7-2011, OPB 11-18-2011, Statesman Journal 12-18-2011, The Oregonian 5-27-2011, 12-17-2011)