Mr. Read is the Oregon state treasurer.
In several Republican-led states, the officials who oversee pension funds for millions of state workers are being told, or may soon be told, to ignore the financial risks associated with a warming world. There’s something distinctly anti-free market about policymakers limiting investment professionals’ choices — and it’s putting the retirement savings of millions at risk.
The Texas comptroller, Glenn Hegar, recently announced that 10 financial firms and 348 funds could be barred from doing business with the state’s pension plans because they appeared to consider environmental risks in their investment decisions regarding the fossil fuel industry. The day before, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced a similar move. Other states, including Idaho, Louisiana and West Virginia, have either taken or are thinking of taking similar actions, which amount to ideological litmus tests that will likely result in lower returns for pensioners.
Author(s): Tobias Read
Publication Date: 17 Sept 2022
Publication Site: NYT
Bills that would have ended the last state-level bans on adults pumping their own gas in Oregon and New Jersey both flamed out this year. A new study purports to show how much the failure of reform is costing drivers.
In March, the Oregon Legislature adjourned without passing a bill allowing gas stations all over the Beaver State to make some of their pumps self-service. Self-service pumps are currently only allowed in smaller rural counties.
Over in New Jersey, another bill similarly allowing gas stations to have some self-service pumps stalled after legislative leaders came out against it in March, reports NJ.com.
By not wanting to take on the political and regulatory costs of reform, politicians from both states are forcing the costs of higher gas prices onto motorists. That’s according to a new study from Clemson University’s Vitor Melo which finds that bans on self-service gas stations reduce supply and drive up prices.
In 2018, Oregon implemented a slight reform of its full-service mandate by allowing gas stations in counties of 40,000 or fewer people to have self-service pumps. Melo’s study used daily gas prices for all gas stations in the state reported to the website Gas Buddy between 2016 and 2019 to tease out what impact the repeal of self-service had on gas prices.
After controlling for counties’ levels of unemployment, poverty, and median income, Melo finds that allowing self-service saw gas prices drop in the affected counties by 4.4 cents per gallon. The price decline nets out to $90 a year for a household with three drivers.
Author(s): CHRISTIAN BRITSCHGI
Publication Date: 24 May 2022
Publication Site: Reason
A new study is pouring cold beer on Seattle’s soda tax. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, reveals that since the city I call home adopted a soda tax in 2018, residents have swapped out soda and replaced that soda with beer. Pointedly, the study says Seattle’s soda tax “induced” consumers to buy more beer.
“The good people of Seattle responded to a tax on sugary drinks by buying more beer,” Christopher Snowdon, director of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs and a leading critic of the nanny state, tweeted after the study’s release.
The PLoS study, by University of Illinois-Chicago researchers Lisa M. Powell and Julien Lader, compared sales of beer in Seattle both before and since adoption of the soda tax with comparable sales in nearby Portland, Oregon, which has no soda tax.
Author(s): Baylen Linnekin
Publication Date: 12 Feb 2022
Publication Site: Reason
Oregon’s public pension fund, which manages tens of billions of dollars in retirement savings, appears to have privately given its blessing to a 2019 deal by an investment fund to acquire NSO Group, the controversial spyware company.
A source with close knowledge of the matter and emails seen by the Guardian suggest that a senior official at the pension fund signalled his strong support for the takeover of NSO as early as 2018, months before the deal was announced.
Last month, Oregon officials said they were “deeply disturbed” by reports that NSO Group “enabled widespread human rights violations”.
Author(s): Stephanie Kirchgaessner
Publication Date: 17 Jan 2022
Publication Site: The Guardian
In the face of the pandemic, states across the geographic and political spectrum — including Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico and New York — are actively considering tobacco tax increases during their legislative sessions. Last month, a bipartisan supermajority in the Maryland Legislature moved to increase the state’s cigarette tax by $1.75 per pack, the first increase in nearly a decade, and to establish a tax on e-cigarettes to fund tobacco cessation and health programs.
The growing legislative momentum comes after voters in Colorado and Oregon approved tobacco tax increases in ballot measures last November. Colorado, which had not raised tobacco taxes in 16 years, will collect an estimated $175 million in revenue during the 2021-22 budget year for tobacco cessation and health programs. In Oregon, higher tobacco taxes will generate an estimated $160 million per year and help to fund the care of people with mental illnesses and other conditions.
Author(s): NANCY BROWN, AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION
Publication Date: 15 March 2021
Publication Site: Governing
The federal stimulus checks helped a lot of Oregonians out when they needed it. And it is also going to help out Oregon government — about $100 million in federal stimulus payments is going to wind up in the state treasury.
The federal government is not taxing the stimulus payments. In Oregon, they are not taxed as income, either. But the payments can impact the federal tax calculations used on your Oregon income tax. And so the stimulus payment may mean you owe state tax on more of your income and wind up paying more taxes or get a reduced refund.
Does that sound right to you? The stimulus checks sure seemed to be aimed at helping individuals, not helping state government.
Author(s): Editorial board
Publication Date: 2 March 2021
Publication Site: Blue Mountain Eagle
The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation.
In some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones, with rural Republican lawmakers in Democrat-led states complaining of “picking winners and losers,” and urbanites traveling hours to rural GOP-leaning communities to score COVID-19 shots when there are none in their city.
In Oregon, state GOP lawmakers walked out of a Legislative session last week over the Democratic governor’s vaccine plans, citing rural vaccine distribution among their concerns. In upstate New York, public health officials in rural counties have complained of disparities in vaccine allocation and in North Carolina, rural lawmakers say too many doses were going to mass vaccine centers in big cities.
Author(s): Associated Press
Publication Date: 1 March 2021
Publication Site: NY Post
Winter storms paralyzing the United States have left millions without power and sent health officials scrambling to protect freezers full of COVID-19 vaccines, which have to be kept at extremely low temperatures or risk going bad.
Rolling blackouts through Texas took out at least one set of freezers full of the Moderna vaccine; 5,000 doses were sent to a university, a jail, and a handful of hospitals before they expired. The Oregon Health Authority is moving vaccines to places with power, although the agency isn’t disclosing which storage sites have their systems down. As part of its storm preparations, Kentucky made sure places holding COVID-19 vaccines had contingency plans.
Author(s): Nicole Wetsman
Publication Date: 16 February 2021
Publication Site: the Verge
To date, 12 states and Seattle have enacted retirement savings programs for private-sector workers. They include OregonSaves with more than 90,000 funded accounts and $92 million in assets, the Illinois Secure Choice retirement savings program with $52.6 million and 82,852 funded accounts, and the $38 million CalSavers Retirement Savings Program that as of February had enrolled 274,024 participants, with another enrollment phase coming up.
The predominant model is an auto IRA, in which employer participation is required if no plan is already offered. Other options are a voluntary payroll deduction Roth IRA, a multiple employer plan, and a service provider marketplace, or a hybrid.
Author(s): Hazel Bradford
Publication Date: 22 February 2021
Publication Site: Pensions & Investments
The changes in Oregon echoed the evolution of guidelines in other states. State and national disability groups had brought complaints to the Office for Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in health care.
There was one lingering question in all of these cases: Why was care rationed to people with disabilities at a time when Oregon’s hospitals were not overcrowded, when there were no shortages of treatment?
Author: Joseph Shapiro
Publication Date: 21 December 2020
Publication Site: NPR