In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski is admitting the truth – Pension promises and public union contracts have bankrupted the state.

Sadly, that revelation does not matter much now as Kulongoski is a lame duck governor finally willing to tell some of the truth.

Please consider Gov. Ted Kulongoski says recession forces Oregon state government to rethink how it operates.

In what may be his last major speech as Oregon’s top executive, Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Friday called for reducing state worker benefits, shortening some mandatory sentences for criminals and making schools more accountable for the state money they spend.

“The current structure of state government is simply not sustainable anymore,” Kulongoski told members of the City Club of Portland.

Friday’s speech and an 85-page list of recommendations released by the governor’s office come as Oregon is struggling to emerge from what Kulongoski repeatedly called the “Great Recession.” Earlier this week he ordered state agencies to cut spending by 9 percent over the next year to close a $577 million budget hole. State government is short at least $2 billion needed to continue services in 2011-2013, and experts warn of budget shortfalls for years to come.

“I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid off this one and say it: Increasing labor costs will be a big contributor to future deficits if we do not change the way we budget and provide compensation for public employees.

“Add health care costs to retirement costs and we will soon be looking at benefit increases for public employees that far exceed the increases in pay and benefits projected for their private sector counterparts,” he said.

Democrat John Kitzhaber said Kulongoski identified the “scope, depth and urgency of the financial crisis,” and indicated he would be willing to look at labor reforms.

“I believe that by bringing (public employees) to the table, we can find ways to lower health care and pension costs,” Kitzhaber said.

Republican Chris Dudley said he can’t support all the proposals, but he does back change.

“From asking state employees to pay a portion of their health care costs to recognizing the need to refocus the scope of government,” he said, “the report and the governor’s remarks showed an understanding of the drastic change that is needed to put Oregon on a sustainable course.”

Democrat candidate John Kitzhaber completely wimped out and did not say a damn thing other than “bring unions to the table”.

However, unions have no table. They always want more, more, more and they do not give a damn about what it costs to anyone else. If you want your taxes raised to support union members who make more than you do with far better benefits than you will ever see, then go ahead and vote for Kitzhaber.

If you want to vote for a total wimp who will no doubt raise your taxes and be more beholden to the unions regardless of taxpayer expense, then by all means vote Democratic.

If you think Oregon needs change and it is time to put an end to absurd union benefits and public salaries, then I suggest you roll the dice with Republican Chris Dudley.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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