economy

Kitzhaber pushes pension cuts in proposed budget

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. John Kitzhaber will propose an increase in funding for Oregon schools, but the money wouldn't be enough to reduce class sizes unless the Legislature cuts pension benefits for retired teachers and other public employees, his staff said Thursday.

The governor's budget proposal, scheduled for release on Friday, will include $6.15 billion in K-12 school funding over the next two years, according to a summary released by his office. That's an 8-percent increase over current funding, but not enough to cover the $6.3 billion it would cost to maintain the current level of service in schools.

Kitzhaber hopes his budget proposal will nudge lawmakers to cut back on public pension benefits for retirees in order to avoid forcing school districts to lay off more teachers or shorten school years.

Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael said the governor built his budget on an assumption that the Legislature will approve two changes to the Public Employee Retirement System: The elimination of a supplemental pension payment intended to cover out-of-state retirees' income tax in Oregon. Out-of-state retirees pay income taxes in their home state, not in Oregon, so critics say they shouldn't get the supplemental tax payment. The other change would limit retirees' annual cost-of-living increase to $480 per year.

The governor's office says the pension changes would save school districts $253 million in the upcoming two-year budget period. Across all levels of government, the savings would be $865 million per biennium.

The governor's funding proposal is far too low to improve the quality of education, said Gail Rasmussen, president of the Oregon Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

His proposed pension cuts are unconstitutional and shouldn't be counted on to deliver savings to school districts, she said.

"Our districts are still dealing with really bad, bad budget crises," Rasmussen said.

In an email sent Thursday to state workers, Kitzhaber said his budget would not require them to take more unpaid days off work to save money, as they've had to do for several years.

His budget also will assume that the Legislature changes criminal sentencing laws so the prison population grows by just 300 inmates over the next 10 years — 2,000 fewer than experts project under current laws.

Kitzhaber's pension and sentencing changes will be a heavy lift in the Legislature, where both initiatives are likely to present political risks for lawmakers.

Public-employee unions, which were instrumental in helping Democrats build their majorities in the Legislature, have a history of fighting pension cuts that hurt their members' pocketbooks.

"Gov. Kitzhaber has provided a good starting point for the budget negotiations ahead of us," Sen. Peter Devlin, a Tualatin Democrat who will be co-chairman of the budget committee, said in a statement.

Lawmakers risk being labeled soft on crime if they approve legislation that reduces prison time for criminals. The governor has long argued that spending on prisons is rising too quickly and diverting scarce tax dollars away from education and police. A commission he appointed is expected to recommend sentencing changes next month.

The $16.3 billion proposed budget for the general fund and lottery is a 10 percent increase over the current spending plan. It would leave $130 million unbudgeted to guard against unexpected costs or a weakening economic recovery.

The governor is required to submit a budget proposal to the Legislature, but the final spending plan must be approved by lawmakers. Kitzhaber and the Legislature have to contend with a $700 million gap between anticipated revenue and the cost of continuing government services at their current levels for two more years.

Kitzhaber will also recommend:

— $1 billion in infrastructure projects, including $450 million for a new Interstate 5 bridge spanning the Columbia River.

— More money to pay for daycare for low-income workers, boosting the program by 500 children.

— Additional funding for high school students to earn community college credits and  to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities.

— $55 million for child safety, including more money for Child Protective Services and for community-based mental health services. Read more about Kitzhaber pushes pension cuts in proposed budget

Connecting the dots...

Connecting the dots between high unemployment, increased crime, exploding entitlement programs, over-crowded school and a deteriorating environment and how they are related to un-checked illegal immigration and excessive legal immigration is a big job, but one we all must continue to pursue.

While Americans re-elected President Obama based on their apparent preference for his economic policies, they do not embrace his plans for amnesty. Furthermore, Americans want to see laws enforced at the workplace through mandatory use of the free, accurate and easy to use E-verify program.

Neither the candidates nor the media drew attention to the deleterious impact that high immigration levels have on American workers," said Marilyn DeYoung, Chairman of the Board of CAPS. "There is no difference between outsourcing, sending American jobs overseas, and insourcing, bringing in foreign workers to take American jobs."

While jobs, jobs and jobs dominated races here in Oregon and across the nation, no one had enough confidence to point out that, here in Oregon about 100,000 illegal aliens are working and 200,000 Oregonians are unemployed. 

We need to do a better job of connecting the dots.

  Read more about Connecting the dots...

Report: Two-Thirds of Jobs Under Obama Went to Immigrants

Two-thirds of those who have found employment under President Obama are immigrants, both legal and illegal, according to an analysis that suggests immigration has soaked up a large portion of what little job growth there has been over the past three years.

The Center for Immigration Studies is releasing the study Thursday morning, a day ahead of the final Labor Department unemployment report of the campaign season, which is expected to show a sluggish job market more than three years into the economic recovery.

That slow market, combined with the immigration numbers, could explain why Mr. Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have struggled to find a winning jobs message in some of the country's hardest-hit postindustrial regions.

"It's extraordinary that most of the employment growth in the last four years has gone to the foreign-born, but what's even more extraordinary is the issue has not even come up during a presidential election that is so focused on jobs," said Steven A. Camarota, the center's research director, who wrote the report along with demographer Karen Zeigler.

His numbers are stark: Since the first quarter of 2009, the number of immigrants of working age (16 to 65) who are employed has risen 2 million, from 21.2 million to 23.2 million. During the same time, native-born employment has risen just 1 million, to reach 119.9 million.

It's a trend years in the making: Immigrants are working more, and native-born Americans are working less.

In 2000, 76 percent of natives aged 18 to 65 were employed, but that dropped steadily to 69 percent this September. By contrast, immigrants started the last decade at 71 percent employment and rose to a peak of 74 percent at the height of the George W. Bush-era economic boom. They since have slid down to 69 percent amid the sluggish economy.

Competitive advantage

The Center for Immigration Studies, which wants the government to impose stricter limits on immigration, based its numbers on the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, which favors letting the markets rather than the government control the flow of immigration, said Mr. Camarota's numbers are "making a mountain out of a molehill."

He said delving into specific numbers explains why immigrants have done better over the past four years: They generally gravitate toward parts of the economy that have picked up faster in the nascent recovery.

"Most of the areas of the U.S. economy that are hiring right now, like agriculture and high-tech industries, are those where immigrants have always been overly represented," Mr. Nowrasteh said.

He also said immigrants are quicker to jump into the rebounding job market while native-born Americans, who under federal law have more welfare options and access to unemployment benefits, are slower to find work.

Mr. Nowrasteh and Mr. Camarota said another factor could be immigrants' mobility.

Natives have roots wherever they live, and it may take higher wages to get them to move for jobs, even if their homes are in depressed areas. Immigrants already have uprooted themselves and can more easily pick places where jobs are available.

Indeed, Mr. Camarota's numbers show that most of the immigrant employment growth went to new arrivals, not to foreign-born residents already in the United States — a figure that suggests immigrants already settled here were having some of the same difficulties as the native-born.

There is some bright news: an uptick over the past year among native-born Americans accounting for two-thirds of all new employment growth.

Full overhaul

Net immigration — both legal and illegal — averaged more than 1.1 million in the 1990s and slightly less than 900,000 in the past decade.

Mr. Camarota said it didn't slow much despite the economic downturn.

"We have a situation where the job market — the bottom fell out, yet we kept legal immigration relatively high without even a national debate," he said. "As a consequence, a lot of the job growth has been going to immigrants."

Immigration has been a touchy political issue for more than a decade, and while all sides agree that the system is broken, efforts to overhaul it in 2006 and 2007 fell short.

This campaign, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama have talked about streamlining the legal immigration system to allow in more high-tech workers. Mr. Romney has said he wants to "staple a green card" to every advanced degree in science, mathematics or engineering earned by an immigrant.

Beyond that, Mr. Obama has vowed to make legalizing illegal immigrants a major push in a second term — and has said if he wins re-election, he thinks Republicans will embrace that goal, realizing that otherwise, Hispanic voters will reject the GOP.

Mr. Romney has talked about legalizing a small number of illegal immigrants, though he has been studiously vague about his specific plans in an effort to try not to alienate voters on either side of the issue.

Mr. Obama did take action this year to grant many illegal immigrants up to 30 years of age a tentative legal status that prevents them from being deported and authorizes them to work in the United States.

Some Republicans in Congress have criticized Mr. Obama's policy, saying it violates his powers and will mean more competition for scarce jobs.

Mr. Romney has said he would not rescind any stays of deportation that Mr. Obama issues but wouldn't issue any new ones himself.

The current system doles out legal visas based on family ties or employment prospects or even a random lottery designed to increase the diversity of those coming to the United States.

In 2007, senators proposed scrapping the legal system and replacing it with a points-based system that would assign a desirability grade to would-be immigrants. Work skills would have gained under that system.

But that proposal, along with the rest of the bill, collapsed amid a bipartisan Senate filibuster.

Mr. Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute said those decisions shouldn't be left up to bureaucrats anyway.

"The government can't pick winners and losers when it comes to green-energy firms like Solyndra, so what makes you think it can pick winners and losers when it comes to immigration?" he asked rhetorically.

© Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC Read more about Report: Two-Thirds of Jobs Under Obama Went to Immigrants

Romney in 2nd debate refuses to budge or pander on issue of taking jobs from illegal aliens

Gov. Romney sent a powerful positive message to unemployed American workers in construction, service and manufacturing by refusing to budge from his long-term insistence on strong enforcement to get illegal immigrants out of U.S. jobs.

He did so in the face of a tough audience question about "productive" illegal immigrants and in response to attacks by Pres. Obama about Romney's support for "self-deportation."

Romney noted two primary ways that a country can enforce its immigration rules and said he rejects the one that involves mass roundups and mass deportations. Instead, he said, he would take away the jobs and benefits magnets and allow most illegal immigrants to come to their own conclusion on moving back to their home countries.

Obama, unfortunately, indicated that he opposes both enforcement options, except for deporting criminals who are "hurting the community."
  Read more about Romney in 2nd debate refuses to budge or pander on issue of taking jobs from illegal aliens

The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Aliens on Washingtonians

Executive Summary

Washington's accommodating policy towards illegal aliens has resulted in a fast growing illegal alien population and a rapidly increasing fiscal burden on the state's taxpayers. With the state budget adding an additional $2.7 billion of debt this year, the need to reduce the costs to the taxpayer from illegal immigration should be obvious to lawmakers.


This study, examining what illegal immigration costs Washington taxpayers, includes the following findings:
 

  • The state's taxpayers bear an annual burden of more than $2.7 billion as a result of an estimated 275,000 illegal aliens plus nearly 104,000 U.S.-born children of illegal aliens of whom about 78,000 are school-aged.
  • The combined K-12 fiscal burden for the children of illegal aliens in regular instruction and supplemental instruction amounts to nearly $1.6 billion annually.
  • Justice and law enforcement costs result in a net outlay of about $176 million. These outlays include policing, court and prison costs.
  • Health care and social assistance programs add additional costs of $652 million.
  • The average Washington household headed by a U.S. citizen bears an annual burden of about $970 to cover the costs of the state's illegal alien population.
  • Illegal aliens pay relatively little in taxes because of their low earnings and work in the underground economy. We estimate they pay about $203 million in state and local taxes — 7.4 percent of the estimated burden.
Read the full report in pdf format.


  Read more about The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Aliens on Washingtonians

Immigrants’ Job Picture Brighter Under Obama Than For the Native Born

Under the Obama Administration, immigrants have fared better at finding jobs than the native born. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data indicate that as of August 2012, over 1.7 million immigrants found jobs during Obama’s term while only 418,000 native-born Americans did.

According to the BLS’ monthly household survey, immigrants garnered about three out of every four jobs added since January 2009 even though they are only one-sixth of the workforce. Between August 2011 and August 2012, immigrants won one out of every three newly-added jobs. During that period, native-born Americans gained 1.436 million new jobs, while immigrants acquired 788,000.

A separate BLS survey of employers indicates that immigrant job gains essentially equaled the number of new jobs added to economy since January 2009. Steven Camarota from the Center for Immigration Studies found that there was a net gain of 1.5 million new jobs between January 2009 and August 2012 while 1.5 million immigrants, legal and illegal, short-term and long-term arrived in the United States and found jobs.

The situation could worsen for the native born given the Obama Administration’s decision to grant work permits and deportation amnesty to as many as 1.7 million illegal aliens under the age of 31. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that fifty-eight percent of this group of illegal aliens are already working or seeking work, but having legal access will enable them to compete for a broader range of jobs with citizens, including higher paying ones.

The percentage of working-age Americans with jobs dropped from 60.6 percent in early 2009 to 58.4 percent in August 2012. That means about 3.9 million fewer working-age Americans are in the workforce. They are not included in unemployment numbers because they are no longer seeking work.

According to BLS, there are about 23 million unemployed and underemployed Americans now while about 8 million illegal aliens and another 16 million foreign-born immigrants hold jobs. Read more about Immigrants’ Job Picture Brighter Under Obama Than For the Native Born

Crime at the US-Mexico border goes corporate

When a regional manager for the Mexican Gulf cartel moved his operation to a more lucrative territory on the border, he took along not only his armored trucks and personal army, but also his department heads and a team of accountants.

In the grotesque violence that has enveloped Mexico it's easy to lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, these criminal organizations are complex businesses that rely on careful accounting as much as assault rifles. The structures underlying the most successful criminal organizations are stable in a way that means capturing or killing the man at the top may only be a temporary setback and pinching one revenue stream will only drive a search for others.

Rafael Cardenas Vela, a Gulf cartel member who ran three important "plazas," or territories, testified this week about the organization's structure and operations in such detail that it could compose a short course _ Narco 101, perhaps.

When prosecutors asked Cardenas to walk jurors through a decade of moves in the cartel's command and control structure, he turned to a giant organizational chart that would be recognizable to anyone in the corporate world except for spaces at the bottom for those "arrested" and "deceased."

Cardenas explained that in his plaza he had managers in charge of each revenue stream, including marijuana, cocaine and "cuota," or extortion payments demanded of legal and illegal businesses. Each department had an accountant. An additional accountant tracked the "piso," or tax that was charged on any drug loads moving through his territory. Another accountant supervised them all.

"I can't do everything myself," Cardenas said. "That's why we have someone in charge of every department."

That structure means simply removing the head is often not enough.

"You have to keep attacking the command and control elements again and again," said Will Glaspy, who oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration's operations in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, across the border from Gulf cartel territory.

Since Osiel Cardenas Guillen, Rafael Cardenas' uncle, was extradited to the U.S. in 2007, the cases have been building on themselves.

The man who took over for Osiel Cardenas was captured this month. Osiel Cardenas' brother was killed by Mexican marines in 2010. Most recently, a third brother was arrested in Mexico this month. Juan Roberto Rincon-Rincon, the plaza boss convicted Friday in Brownsville, is one of three Gulf cartel plaza bosses arrested in the U.S. last year. And Mexican authorities captured another alleged boss this week.

"It's the government of Mexico that has had such tremendous success targeting the Gulf cartel over the last five or six years," Glaspy said. "They're the ones who have continued to attack and focus on the command and control of the Gulf cartel."

"(The Gulf cartel's) corporate structure doesn't exactly look like a Fortune 500 company, but it's probably not far off," he said.

The structure reflects diversified interests. The cartel is still known primarily as a drug-trafficking organization, but it receives important revenue from smuggling immigrants and its extortion rackets.

The U.S. Border Patrol sector that covers much of the Gulf cartel's territory seized just over 1 million pounds of marijuana in 2011 and apprehended nearly 60,000 illegal immigrants. The cartel receives a cut for every kilogram of drugs and every illegal immigrant that passes through its territory.

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, chairwoman of the government department at the University of Texas-Brownsville, credits Osiel Cardenas with leading the cartel's structural evolution. She said his nephew's testimony revealed the similarities between today's drug-trafficking organization and a legitimate corporation with transnational networks and diversified interests.

Osiel Cardenas' biggest move was creating the Zetas, former special forces troops, as a new department to handle the cartel's security and enforcement, she said.

"When (Osiel Cardenas) introduced the Zetas he changed the whole panorama of drug trafficking and organized crime in the hemisphere," she said. Their expansion into other criminal enterprises beyond drug trafficking served as a lesson for their longtime patrons and other criminal organizations. The Zetas split from the cartel in 2010 and became an independent criminal organization.

Without the critical smuggling corridors controlled by the Gulf cartel or its supply lines, the Zetas initially couldn't count on drug-trafficking revenue so they diversified to piracy and extortion, Glaspy said.

"It's all about the money, and if they're not making the money from drugs they will seek out other criminal activity to reinforce or find other revenue streams," he said.

The younger Cardenas testified that it cost him about $1 million a month when he ran the Rio Bravo plaza to cover payroll, rent, vehicles and bribes. He had to recruit, train and equip his own gunmen. When they were killed, he continued paying their salaries to their families.

He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and marijuana and is cooperating with U.S. authorities in other cartel cases with the hope of receiving a shorter sentence.

Bribes went to every level of law enforcement, the press, members of the military and corrupted U.S. officials, he said.

"In order to have your plaza well, all organized, you have to pay all the police agencies," Cardenas said. Paying off the local police in Rio Bravo alone cost $20,000 per week, he said.

And when the Gulf cartel began going head to head with the Zetas in early 2010, he said, costs rose to the point where they were just breaking even.

Cardenas worked for nearly a decade as a plaza boss. Each of his plazas was within an hour's drive of the Texas border.

"All of the plazas that have river on the border are better," he said. More drugs and immigrants crossing, as well as border businesses such as pharmacies popular with American tourists. "More money."

  Read more about Crime at the US-Mexico border goes corporate

Congress extends E-Verify for 3 more years with near-unanimous support

Oh, how things have changed in just a few years.

It was just 3 years ago that an E-Verify extension was in doubt, making Thursday's near-unanimous House approval so significant.

To be clear, neither action was about mandating E-Verify for all employers. But for the government to even be allowed to offer E-Verify for voluntary use, the extensions had to be passed in 2009 and again this month.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved, with almost unanimous support, a bill that extends E-Verify for another 3 years. The electronic employment verification program, which NumbersUSA believes would have the biggest impact in ending the flow of illegal immigration to the United States, is set to expire at the end of the month, but, now that it's passed through both chambers of Congress, we fully expect Pres. Obama to sign the extension into law.

The extension was offered in the Senate, by Democratic Senator Pat Leahy, where it passed with unanimous consent. The bill then showed up on Tuesday's House calendar under a House procedure called "Suspension of the Rules". The House suspends the rules when House Leaders believe the bill is "non-controversial" and has support of at least two-thirds of its Members. When the bill is brought to the floor, a motion to suspend the rules is raised. No amendments are offered and a two-thirds vote is required for passage. In many instances, there's no roll call, just a voice vote. After coming to the floor on Tuesday, the vote was delayed until Thursday when it passed by a 412-to-3 margin .

E-Verify is now officially, in the minds of Congress and its Leaders, "non-controversial". The E-Verify extension didn't come without compromise, though. The bill also extends three small visa programs, including religious worker visas, investor visas, and cultural exchange visas.

Why was today's vote such a big deal? Three years ago, an extension of the E-Verify program was a bit more contentious.

It was set to expire in March of 2009, so lawmakers began working on an extension in the fall of 2008. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, however, wouldn't lift a hold he placed on the extension without a massive increase in green cards, so Congress kicked the E-Verify can down the road until the spring.

Facing expiration at the end of March 2009, a new debate started during the Senate's consideration of a must-pass, omnibus spending bill earlier in the month. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama offered a 5-year E-Verify extension as an amendment, but a motion to table the amendment was raised - ironically by Sen. Leahy. The motion to table passed by a 50-to-47 margin, but Congress did gave E-Verify a 6-month lifeline by extending the program through September 2009.

In June 2009, the debate surfaced again with the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee including a 2-year reauthorization in its markup of the DHS spending bill for 2010. The bill would eventually pass through the House.

In July 2009, Sen. Sessions offered an amendment during the Senate's consideration of the DHS spending bill, but this amendment would permanently reauthorize E-Verify. Again, a motion to table Sen. Sessions amendment was raised, but unlike in the spring, and with the unemployment rate soaring, the motion was defeated by a 44-to-53 margin. (Read Roy's analysis of the vote.)

The DHS spending bill, however, never became law, and it wasn't until a continuing resolution passed in October 2009 that E-Verify was re-authorized.

So after all the drama of 2009, here we are in the first week of legislative business after a month-long summer recess, and the House has quietly passed a bill, without controversy, that will extend E-Verify through September of 2015.

We would have liked a permanent reauthorization of E-Verify like the one Sen. Sessions offered back in 2009, but an extension of E-Verify before it expired and without controversy is a major improvement over 2009, and maybe one small step towards a nationwide mandate of E-Verify for all employers in the future. Read more about Congress extends E-Verify for 3 more years with near-unanimous support

OFIR VP published in Washington Times

Rick LaMountain is a talented writer often published in The Oregonian.  LaMountain has a gift for making a clear point and did just that, in a well sourced commentary about unions and their involvement in illegal immigration issues. Read more about OFIR VP published in Washington Times

Friday, September 7, 5th Congressional District Debate

Alert date: 
September 5, 2012
Alert body: 

-Election 2012-

5th Congressional District Debate:   Lugo, Schrader and Thompson

Salem City Club is pleased to host a debate between the three candidates seeking to represent Oregon's 5th congressional district in U.S. House of Representatives. Join us on Friday, September 7 at noon when we open our 45th season with this dynamic program. Congressional District 5 encompasses Tillamook, Lincoln, Polk, Marion, and Clackamas counties, rural, metro, coastal, and suburban neighborhoods.

For more information please visit the Salem City club website.

NOTE:  Incumbent Kurt Schrader has a D grade on immigration issues according to NumbersUSA.  Oregon deserves better!

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