Monday, January 11, 2010

Oregonian/Mapes Misleading?

Jeff Mapes* wrote a recent "Ad Watch" front page story on the Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes ad "Doesn't Matter".

Mapes asserts:
"The ad also says the taxes will help pay for $259 million to “fund state employee salary increases.” The average viewer gets the impression that state employees are getting big raises in this budget.

That’s false. State employees are actually taking a pay cut.

Sponsors of the ad got the $259 million figure by adding the cost of raises given in the 2007-2009 budget and the amount that keeping salaries at that level would cost in 2009-11. Then they compared that total with the salary budget four years earlier — in 2005-07.

In fact, state employees will not receive any cost-of-living increases in the 2009-11 budget and they must take between 10 and 14 unpaid furlough days. The state also deferred step increases for one year. The net of those changes is a $27 million pay cut for state workers.
However, Mapes himself wrote a bit more than a year ago about big salary hikes included in the 2007-2009 budget.
"But what I didn't realize on Monday was that Kulongoski a year ago had agreed to abolish the lowest step and create a new one at the top, effective June 30, 2009. In effect, just about every state worker will qualify for a step increase in the next budget cycle (along with about two-thirds of managers, according to the Department of Administrative Services).

"Kulongoski agreed to the extra step increase to mollify rank-and-file workers after the governor handed out jumbo-sized raises - ranging from 11 percent to 24 percent - to managers and agency heads. The public employee unions had already agreed to a six percent raise for workers in the 2007-09 budget cycle, but the contracts hadn't yet been fully ratified when news broke of the management increases."
. . .
"To further complicate the picture, Kulongoski also proposes that state workers accept four eight unpaid days off over the next two years. That will save taxpayers about $35 million over the next two years (in the general fund), while the step increases will cost about $50 million."
[emphasis added]
Maybe Mapes' left hand doesn't remember what his right hand wrote?

Mapes also leaves out the big benefits payments that state employees receive (which will undoubtedly increase in 2010 and 2011) reported on by the Eugene Register-Guard in November.

To use Mapes' own formulation, what is the "impression" the "average" reader gets from this article? Mapes implies that Oregon state employee expenses have decreased $27 million from the 2007-2009 budget to the 2009-2011 budget. Is this true? Or does this just mean that the furlough days and deferred step increases total a $27 million cut, but don't mean a total $27 million cut in the state employees line item(s)?

Mapes gives us no hard figures to compare state employee compensation funding between the two budgets. Is he accurate but misleading?

Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes has an iron in the fire. Mapes isn't supposed to. By leaving out the global hard figures, not mentioning benefits increases or the big salary increases instituted in 2008 he leaves himself open to the assumption that he's trying to muddy the waters on state employee compensation rather than get to the truth. At the least this is another careless nail in the inaccurate and biased coffin the press is building for itself.
*Betsy Hammond is listed as co-author on the print version but not the online version of the article.

UPDATE: OregonGuy provided a valuable link in his comment. It turns out the State of Oregon has increased employee salary spending. According to State Representative Dennis Richardson:
". . . in the current 2009-11 Budget, Oregon State has expanded programs, added 1540 additional employees, increased spending by $4.7 Billion (9.3%), and increased long-term debt by $4 Billion. All of this spending in 2009 was on top of a 21% General Fund spending increase in 2007. In short, Government spending compounds and Oregon’s spending is unsustainable."
[emphasis added]
This is devastating to Mapes' argument and his credibility.


OregonGuy said...

Well, Pilgrim, whatcha gonna do?

T. D. said...

Thanks for this link, OG! Richardson's figures are devastating to Mapes' analysis.