Oregonian Editorial Endorsement: Knute Buehler for Oregon Governor

Reprinted from the Oregonian, October 13, 2018

Editorial Endorsement: Knute Buehler for Oregon Governor

by The Oregonian Editorial Board

Before Oregonians cast their vote for governor they should first recognize what this race is not about. It's not about abortion rights, despite ads attempting to cast it as a wedge issue between pro-choice Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and her pro-choice Republican opponent, Rep. Knute Buehler.

It's not about who aligns best with Portland metro area residents, despite the focus on the region and its immense voting power.

And it's not about Donald Trump, despite his administration's reckless stances and callous policies that have kept people across the country in a continual state of alarm.

Simply, the Oregon governor's race is about who can best lead Oregon in tackling the human and economic crises unfolding on our home turf. From the state's distressed K-12 education system to the critical need for pension reform to encouraging more affordable-housing construction, Oregon is running out of time to responsibly address these challenges. With little vision and no urgency by Brown in her nearly four years as governor, and insufficient experience from Independent Party nominee Patrick Starnes, voters fortunately have a strong alternative. Oregonians should vote for the candidate who is willing to take courageous action on these entrenched problems and mark their ballots for Knute Buehler.

Buehler, 54, may lack the name recognition of Brown, who has been in political office for decades as a legislator, secretary of state and governor since former Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned in February 2015 amid a corruption probe. But the Republican nominee, who is a native Oregonian and orthopedic surgeon, has built up his own impressive record as a two-term state representative from Bend, a district in which Democrats hold a registration edge.

While his votes have tracked with his caucus on fiscal issues, he has broken with his party many times, reflecting his moderate outlook on social issues. He voted with Democrats to adopt a gun control measure banning firearms ownership by people convicted of domestic abuse; voted in favor of a bill raising some real-estate document recording fees to help fund housing initiatives; and he even carried the bill on the House floor that gave women the ability to seek birth control prescriptions from a pharmacist, rather than having to go to a doctor. He also was among Republican legislators developing a more broad-based funding solution for the Medicaid expansion than the temporary package that was signed into law.

But it's not his background so much as his priorities and concrete ideas for Oregon that should win over voters. Improving the quality of education for Oregon's K-12 students is his top priority with an ambitious goal of moving the system from the bottom five in the nation to the top five in five years. More than any other aspect of state government, K-12 education illustrates Brown's profound failure to lead.

Buehler has a long list of proposals to flesh out his vision. They include devoting 15 percent more in General Fund dollars to the K-12 education budget to help pay for lengthening the school year from the 165-day average to 180 days. He aims to reduce class sizes and add reading aides, with the goal that every third grader meets reading benchmarks. He describes establishing an ROTC-like scholarship program to train Oregon teachers and increase diversity within their ranks. And he would restructure Oregon's broken public-employee pension system to help districts direct more dollars to serving students while still ensuring fair retirements for teachers. That priority is particularly important considering that even with record-high education spending in the 2017-2019 biennium - 11 percent more than the budget cycle before - school districts have had to cut teachers and programs to cover skyrocketing pension and health care benefits. Left unchecked, those burdens will sink our schools.

Contrast Buehler's education platform with Brown, whose vision consists mostly of initiatives left by Kitzhaber, programs dictated by voters or priorities pushed by the teachers' union. (Interestingly, her chief education officer is a union official who has zero experience as an educator.) Two years after voters passed a career-and-technical education initiative to improve graduation and dropout rates, she is only now committing to fully fund it, championing it as a key part of her plan. And so perhaps, it's not that surprising that the state continues to have the third-worst graduation rate in the country, test scores show declines or little progress and the last two years of data for dropouts and chronic absenteeism show no improvement.

In fact, when asked by The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board why there hasn't been more progress in education, Brown said it's still coming together. "You will not see more progress until we literally have what I call a seamless system of education from cradle to career," she said, referencing the initiative created by Kitzhaber that her administration is building out. She added that investments in pre-kindergarten will help ensure that students show up to kindergarten "ready to learn."

No one, particularly the families of the 600,000 students currently in Oregon's K-12 schools, should accept her apparent willingness to write off their education. The years students have to grow and learn in the K-12 education system are fleeting. The window of opportunity for students to gain the tools, skills and confidence they need is limited. And the enormous difference that a quality education can make for kids from the poorest of families is an imperative that should guide our leaders to make the bravest of choices.

But Brown hasn't been that leader.

Buehler's willingness to address the growing $22 billion pension debt - which both candidates called a "crisis" - is another critical difference between the two. Education isn't the only area where pension costs are driving cuts. That painful math is playing out across 900 state agencies, local governments, public utilities and other public employers who will be paying $4 billion in contributions to the Public Employees Retirement System in 2019-2021, a 38 percent increase over the current biennium. The burden is already overwhelming. It's crushing if state economists' projections of a possible recession beginning in 2020 come true.

Buehler advocates pursuing employee contribution changes and salary limits that legislators had considered in 2017 - until Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek pulled the plug, saying they would revisit such ideas later. In 2019. But even now, Brown is noncommittal about asking employees to contribute to the pension fund as they do in other states. Such changes, she has said, are akin to "balancing the budget on the backs" of employees.

Buehler faces tough odds to win in a state where registered Democrats handily outnumber Republicans, and in a year when Trump's policies and persona have turned a #NeverTrump attitude into a #NeverRepublican mantra. Commercials and social media campaigns by Brown's allies have tried to discredit his moderate stances and paint him as a Trump ally, even though he has openly criticized Trump many times. Oregonians shouldn't be distracted by such maneuvers and instead ask themselves what are the most pressing problems that our governor should address?

While Buehler gets some things wrong - his muddled response on repealing the state's sanctuary law, for example - he offers a brighter vision for what Oregon should be and how to get there. His approach, versus Brown's, reflects the leadership he would bring not just to education and pension reform, but funding health care, promoting housing development, and Oregon's many other needs.

Brown's commitment to public service, whether in or out of political office, is unquestionable. The first openly bisexual governor in the nation, Brown has been an inspiration to many who have been sidelined because of race, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Her work as Oregon's secretary of state to create an automatic voter registration process broke new ground in helping increase voter participation. And when Kitzhaber's resignation amid a corruption probe in 2015 suddenly thrust her into the top job, she rose to the moment, displaying the poise and measured temperament needed to help shell-shocked Oregonians heal.

But in nearly four years as governor, Brown never owned the role. It's time for Oregonians to give it to someone who will.

- Helen Jung for The Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board


Oregonian editorials:

Editorials reflect the collective opinion of The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board, which operates independently of the newsroom. Members of the editorial board are Laura Gunderson, Helen Jung, Therese Bottomly and John Maher.
Members of the board meet regularly to determine our institutional stance on issues of the day. We publish editorials when we believe our unique perspective can lend clarity and influence an upcoming decision of great public interest. Editorials are opinion pieces and therefore different from news articles. However, editorials are reported and written by either Laura Gunderson or Helen Jung.


Standard Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Clackamas County Republican Party


Exciting Week for the Supreme Court

It is often difficult to say, “It has been an exciting week for the United States Supreme Court and Oregon State Supreme Court”. But, last week was an exciting week. Three major decisions coming from the US Supreme Court, a surprise decision from the State Supreme Court, and the announcement from Justice Kennedy of his retirement.

Decisions from the US Supreme Court:

The Janus decision, issued on June 27, 2018, granted rights to public workers, no longer requiring the worker to “subsidize” the union if the worker does not believe the Union represent the workers personal beliefs. This decision, as many of the liberal media and legislators have stated, does not remove the rights of public workers, it does the opposite, it grants rights. However, this is a blow to public unions, as the coffers of available money to fund liberal candidates and issues will be reduced.

On June 26, 2018, two decisions were handed down that are victories for Right to Life Advocates and President Trump.

The first, the US Supreme Court overturned a California State Law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to provide abortion information to everyone who sought their services. Many of these pro-life pregnancy centers were owned and operated by religious groups, and the law violated their religious beliefs. This decision was a big victory for pro-life advocates and religious groups.

The next US Supreme Court decision overturned a lower court’s decision to stop President Trump’s Temporary Travel Ban. The ban, as opponents claim, did not target a religion, but only a very few select countries who have a history of promoting terrorists and terrorism against the United States. This decision will do promote the safety of the United States and its citizens.

In a surprise move by a liberal Oregon State Supreme Court, a decision was handed down on June 27, 2018, referring the IP-43 ballot title back to the State Attorney General for modification. This decision was a big blow to the anti-gun right advocates, and a huge victory to the Second Amendment Rights supporters. Because of this decision, the Petitioners have stated they will not proceed to place IP-43 on the November Ballot because there is not enough time to collect the required signatures.

The decision by the State Supreme Court must have been devastating to Governor Kate Brown. She is an outspoken advocate for gun regulations and gun control. Brown appointed four of the seven justices on the Supreme Court, stacking the court with Justices who share her beliefs. This decision was truly unexpected.

The coup de gras for the week, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement from the United States Supreme Court. Although listed as a conservative, Kennedy is often referred to as the “swing vote”, often voting liberal when it came to social issues.

President Trump said he will announce the name of his nominee to replace Justice Kennedy on July 9, 2018.

Many Democrat Senators and news media outlets have already vowed to block any nominee President Trump submits. The hate against the President runs so deep within these Senators and  liberal press, they have pledged to obstruct Trump’s nominee, regardless who that person is and how qualified they are. Although there will be a battle on the Hill, the Republicans have the votes and tools to confirm President Trump’s nominee.

President Trump has an opportunity to shape the US Supreme Court for many years to come. Instead of a court making decisions based upon popular, personal social beliefs, we could have a United States Supreme Court making decisions based upon the United States Constitution as written.


About the Author: Ron Le Blanc is the past Chair of the Clackamas County Republican Party. He has served on and Chaired many committees within the CCRP. Ron is a small business owner and a retired Deputy Sheriff.

Standard Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Clackamas County Republican Party.

State Representative Knute Buehler: Medicaid suffers from failed leadership

As a doctor who has devoted my life to health and healing and as a lawmaker who supports Oregon’s expanded Medicaid program, I am gravely concerned about the lack of leadership from Gov. Kate Brown that has created an atmosphere of chaos, corruption and incompetence around the management, funding and delivery of health care services that millions of Oregonians rely upon every day.

Last week, it was revealed that for three years the state government has overpaid $74 million to 16 health care providers through the Medicaid program. That’s $74 million of your tax dollars. Almost as bad, state health care managers were aware of this problem for nearly a year and chose to conceal the overpayments from legislators and the public until last week. What was the governor’s response? She said she was out of the loop in the very government she allegedly leads. This is a deflection and dodge, not leadership or accountability.

When I learned of the overpayments, I quickly sent a letter to the governor demanding she do three things:

1. Get Oregonians’ money back — with interest.

2. Appoint an independent investigator to find out how this happened and who should be accountable.

3. Immediately release any and all documents, emails, etc., from her office related to the millions of dollars in over payments.

At first, the governor refused to demand repayment. But after criticism came her way, she reversed course. I applaud Gov. Brown for joining me in demanding repayment of these tax dollars. Unfortunately, she still refuses to launch an investigation to find out the truth, and she hasn’t released any documents from her office on this subject. I hope the governor will change her mind and realize that finding the truth and fixing problems begins with transparency and trust.

Now that getting Oregonians’ money back is a bipartisan goal shared by both the governor and me, I am requesting that the governor and my 89 colleagues in the House and Senate join me in supporting legislation to make it the law when we meet in Salem in February.

House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney, so far, have been silent on this scandal, but I hope they will be the first to sign on to the legislation — or propose their own bill. Given the unfortunate track record of waste and mismanagement in Medicaid going back to Cover Oregon, good intentions and nice words from state leaders are no longer sufficient. We need bipartisan leadership and the force of law to ensure accountability and to regain taxpayer trust.

Oregon has a proud tradition of innovative thinking and bipartisan leadership in health care policy. Since the advent of the Oregon Health Plan in the 1980s, to expanding access to health care for low-income children, through the launch of coordinated care organizations (CCOs), and allowing the sale of over-the-counter birth control for women, Oregon has been a health care policy leader.

Unfortunately, under Brown’s watch, this legacy is in tatters. More important, the health of Oregonians who rely on health care services is at risk. Every dollar wasted on a failed computer system or overpayment to a provider is a dollar that can’t be spent providing health care to Oregonians. That’s the biggest scandal of all.

The health care safety net we provide Oregonians through Medicaid is vital. As governor, I will work to make health care more accessible and more affordable. That’s my commitment to you.

But first, we must save our Medicaid system from the failed leadership of Gov. Brown. We must ensure over payments to providers are returned, we must investigate how this happened and why, we must make needed reforms to prevent future waste and we must recapture Oregon’s commitment to bipartisan innovation in health care policy. Oregonians deserve better than the failing status quo.


Representative Knute Buehler is the Republican Nominee for Governor.

Reprinted from the Knute for Governor website: https://knutebuehler.com/view-medicaid-suffers-failed-leadership/