by Michael Dreiling, President, AAUP-Oregon
Friends and Colleagues,
What a mind-blowing year. While giving testimony in Salem on Tuesday, the whipsaw that is contemporary politics capped off the academic year. It was a crowded hearing, with a second overflow room before the Joint Tax Reform Committee. Hours of testimony by teachers, home-care and foster care providers, parents, nurses, social workers, and a few professors contrasted sharply with the few business lobbyists complaining about a possible tax hike. At this Joint Tax Reform Committee, we finally saw the first step toward a bill that would begin to hold more corporations accountable for a fair share toward our common good. But the bill, as presently drafted, would still fall far short of the game changing, long term, investments to human services, education, and infrastructure that are needed.
Let’s thank our legislators but urge them to go further and resolve the recurring structural shortfall in revenue. Let’s make it happen. Contact your legislator today and make your voice heard!
I cannot do justice to the testimonials I heard; but I saw evidence of a state government, cuffed for decades by a fear that raising corporate taxes will hurt “business,” now struggling to see the significant hurt accumulating right before our very eyes. Our K-12 schools, especially in low-income neighborhoods are beginning to resemble those found in poor countries (124 Oregon schools have 90% or more of their students eligible for federally funded free lunches, class sizes regularly exceed 35% of the once normal cap on class size of 18 for kindergarten and 24 for 1st-5th grade, etc.). The fear that business will be hurt by a tax increase grossly distorts the ethical choice at stake and is unfounded based on comparisons with other states and with our own state and national history.
Let’s help our legislators overcome this unfounded fear; join me in urging legislators to take courage and solve our revenue crisis, like other states already do. If you haven’t already, please contact your legislator today.
The current plan is not enough. For example, as I testified, the HECC indicated in its budget request for the 2017-2019 biennium that a funding level of $943 million would be needed to fully fund all services and current plans and avoid tuition increases at Oregon’s universities. The current higher education funding level being considered in the Legislature (SB 5524) falls at least $100 million short of what Oregon public universities need just to maintain current service levels, even with tuition increases. Research shows tuition increases take a serious toll on college completion rates. Yet, a HECC study of Oregon high school graduates finds that only 22% ever complete college (The national average is over 31%). We have a long way to go towards the 40-40-20 educational goals for our state.
Our already-crowded schools are on the brink of losing thousands of teachers, sending class sizes embarrassingly higher. 350,000 Oregonians are at risk of losing their health care under the GOP’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and hundreds of thousands more would be devastated by growing premiums and cuts to pre-existing condition protections.
Today, Oregonians from all across the state are attending public hearings to urge revenue reform — but we need all hands on deck to get the message across. Again, can you take a second to tell your legislator to push for game-changing revenue?
Thank you for hearing and responding to this call to action. Our universities, students, and communities cannot take more cuts in good economic times. We are on the verge of a solution. Help us solve this endemic problem in Oregon.