Kate Brown is claiming that Knute Buehler, her opponent in the race for Oregon’s Secretary of State, is too extreme for Oregon. What she really means, though, is that Knute Buehler is too extreme for Kate Brown’s Oregon. That Oregon is a place Kate Brown and her political backers, including Governor Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bradbury, have spent their entire political careers and billions of taxpayer dollars creating for themselves. And for them, Kate Brown’s Oregon is a very nice place to be.
For example, in Kate Brown’s Oregon the government is totally controlled by career politicians who have classified themselves as public employees in order to take advantage of the public employee benefits they have created, such as PERS and the many benefits provided by the Public Employee Benefit Board. Those public employee benefits cost the people of Oregon billions of dollars every year. The non-public employees of Oregon, who make up 92% of the state’s population, are required to pay for those benefits but they have no meaningful voice in deciding what those benefits will be or how they will be paid for. In Kate Brown’s Oregon, the career politicians make all of those decisions.
Kate Brown, Governor Kitzhaber and Bill Bradbury realize that if Knute Buehler is elected, the future of Kate Brown’s Oregon will be in jeopardy. Career politicians will no longer have total control over Oregon’s government. The possibility that a person who is not part of their inner circle of career politicians might hold one of the state’s highest offices frightens them and it should. They know that they did not get to where they are today by having independent Oregonians involved in the government.
Just look at the PERS situation. During the first twenty-five years that PERS existed, 1945 through 1970, legislators were not allowed to join PERS. The people of Oregon were represented by independent legislators when PERS laws were made. Through that entire period of time, PERS benefits remained constant. After working a full career, a PERS member received a retirement benefit equal to approximately 50% of his or her final average salary and the people of Oregon and the public employee each contributed 50% of the cost of that retirement benefit. But once the Oregon Attorney General ruled that legislators could join PERS in 1971, it took the legislators only ten years to more than double the PERS retirement benefits and to shift almost the entire PERS funding obligation to the people of Oregon. Then they made PERS funding Oregon’s highest financial priority. That is why PERS is always paid first and why public services will always be cutback to fund PERS.
Today, in Kate Brown’s Oregon, the majority of legislators, the Governor, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General and all of the judges are PERS members. There is not one branch of the Oregon government that gives independent representation on PERS issues to the people of Oregon. That makes the PERS benefits created by the PERS legislators invulnerable to reform by the people who have to pay for them. When Oregonians did have independent representation in PERS matters, those benefits never existed. And PERS is just one example of why Kate Brown’s Oregon is such a wonderful place for Kate Brown and the other career politicians who control it.
That’s why Kate Brown and her political backers see Knute Buehler as too extreme. If he is elected, they have a serious problem. It would open the door to the election of other independent persons to statewide office. In that event, the career politicians who now have total control over the state would lose their power and Kate Brown’s Oregon would come to an abrupt end.