SEIU Local 503 Legislative Priorities 2013

Our legislative work in 2013 will focus on funding for contracts, other critical budget issues, PERS defense, and revenue reform. Simultaneously, we will be promoting policy legislation in several areas that support the goals of SEIU 503’s five-year plan. Our goal is to have meaningful victories in each of the following policy areas.

Quality State and Local Government Services

SEIU Local 503 members raised their profile on issues of quality services and taxpayer protection when we published Moving Oregon Forward in 2011. This report listed member-generated recommendations on cost-saving ideas that preserved front-line services during a budget crisis. In 2013, we joined with nine other organizations to publish Making Every Dollar Count. The report focuses on improving contractor accountability, improving the Department of Revenue’s ability to collect unpaid taxes (about 18 cents on the dollar currently goes uncollected), and continuing to improve the ratio of front-line workers to middle managers in order to preserve front-line services during times of record demand for services.

Specifically, we want to hold government contractors accountable by:

  1. Improving upon 2009 legislation which requires state contracting agencies to complete a feasibility study when they decide to contract out state services – including services provided by the Oregon University System.
  2. Addressing position authority issues many state agencies face when funding is available to meet workload demands – and can be handled in-house. Currently, if a state agency can do the work better and cheaper than a private contractor, the agency still has to contract out the work if it does not have the authority to hire more workers. We will be fighting for a more common-sense approach.
  3. Creating a centralized information technology (IT) pool within state government for state agencies to contract with instead of using costly IT contractors.
  4. Improving the Transparency Oregon Advisory Commission by expanding the scope of the commission to include the Oregon University System and by making more information available to the public.
  5. Tightening laws governing the state’s ability to contract with state workers both before and after their state employment.
  6. Adopting a state preference for using state employees over contractors when it would be most cost-efficient and a policy that, before an agency contracts out state services, they must make reasonable efforts to determine that no state employee or agency, including an employee or agency outside of the contracting agency, is able and available to perform the required services.

Improving Access, Quality and Affordability of Higher Education

Our members provide critical front-line services to help students at the state’s universities. During the down economy there has been record enrollment. But out-of-control tuition increases have helped create a mountain of student debt, and have priced a college education out of reach of our members’ kids and grandkids. Access to a quality education is part of the American Dream, and our members are at the forefront of fighting to make this possible for Oregon students and families.

We believe there is a tremendous amount of waste in the higher education system as layer after layer of bureaucracy is added. This threatens resources that should be devoted directly to student services, and helps drive tuition increases that are unfair to working families and students. We want to shine a spotlight in these areas by promoting the following policies:

  • Standardize annual reporting by OUS and community colleges to the OR Legislature on ratios of supervisors to front line employees.  Report on compensation within faculty; classified and un-classified staff categories including part-time, temporary and graduate assistants.  Compile ratios of staff per student for each campus as well. We are also exploring the idea of holding the higher education system accountable to staffing ratios similar to those in state government.
  • Regulate on-line higher education programs and accreditation processes.  With the proliferation of various degree programs nationally – there needs to be oversight, transparency and disclosure around these programs and their efficacy.
  • Continue to support efforts to pass tuition equity legislation in the state which would recognize the children of immigrants as deserving of in-state tuition. This will ensure that bright young students who have worked hard at our public schools have the option to attend colleges and universities at an affordable price. Currently, students who were brought here by their parents at a young age are forced to pay international student rates even though they went to schools here in Oregon and in many cases have spent very little time living abroad.
  • Bringing the higher education system under the state contracting standards for non-construction contracts.

Fighting for Quality Services for Oregonians with Developmental Disabilities

We will be proposing a variety of bills to increase client choice in care setting and improve the quality of care for people with developmental disabilities.

  • One priority is to expand the consumer watchdog role of the long-term care ombudsman to include care for people with developmental disabilities.
  • The second priority is to provide greater transparency in the rate-setting process for care providers for people with developmental disabilities.
  • Finally, we are exploring increasing the cap on expenditures on personal support services. Under current law, once expenditures exceed roughly $22,000, the client is no longer eligible for these community-based supports. Yet care in a group home setting can cost in the neighborhood of $60,000/year.

Health Care Reform

  • Monitor the establishment of the Health Insurance Exchange to make sure that health insurance is affordable and accessible to more Oregonians.
  • Support legislative priorities to improve the cultural competency of medical professionals and reduce disparities in health care for people of color.
  • Monitor the renewal of the provider taxes

Retirement Security: Start to tackle the challenge facing care providers and private sector workers who lack access to an employment-based retirement program

Almost 50% of private sector workers in Oregon are at severe risk of retiring into poverty due to a lack of good options through their job. This includes thousands of care providers and private sector workers represented by SEIU local 503.  A secure retirement requires more than just Social Security. Therefore policy makers in Oregon should put us on a pathway to develop an Oregon Secure Retirement Plan for private sector workers without access to good options where they work. The key elements of the plan should include:

  • A public board that is representative of working Oregonians.
  • The board would oversee the creation of a secure retirement plan, monitor investments and ensure fiscal accountability, to be presented to the legislature for approval in 2014.
  • Elements of the plan could include:
    • Professional management of funds to ensure the best returns and advantages offered by a fund manager like the OR Investment Council.
    • The plan should be voluntary, flexible and portable.
    • The plan managers should use industry best practices to minimize risk, ensure a secure return, insure principle investments and guarantee a predictable stream of income in retirement.
    • This plan should give employers the ability to retain workers who need a retirement benefit without carrying the administrative burden thereof.
    • The plan should be funded, insured and structured in such a way to eliminate risk for taxpayers.
    • Finally, the plan should be widely available to workers and easily accessible by those who wish to participate.

Revenue Reform

We will be promoting four ideas to make Oregon’s tax system fairer for middle-class and working families, and to improve the quality of services.

  • Place a cap on itemized tax deductions for wealthy taxpayers ($150M to $250M)
  • Place a cap on mortgage interest deduction for mortgages over $400,000 ($70M)
  • Implement a 1% gross receipts tax on corporations with revenue over $100,000,000 ($600M)
  • End the practice of corporations buying and selling tax credits which they did not earn (research ongoing).
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