PORTLAND, Ore. (NNPA) - Rep. Chip Shields (D-Portland) this week
introduced a bipartisan bill that would provide oversight of how
state-chartered banks are spending money disbursed through the Troubled
Assets Relief Program (TARP).
The move comes at the same time another new bill would create a
statewide “stimulus czar” to oversee the influx of money expected from
President Barack Obama’s economic plan.
If passed, Shields’ House Bill 2784 would convene a bipartisan
group of Oregon state senators and representatives, as well as members
of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services and
representatives of the financial industry, to provide oversight and
evaluate the need for regulation of operations of financial
institutions licensed, certified or chartered in this state that
receive funds from the TARP program.
Salem, OR - Representatives of some national "good government" groups will be in Salem today for the first hearing on two bills that would tighten requirements for who gets government contracts and how they use the money. The Oregon legislation could be used by other states that are looking for ways to track job creation and increase accountability.
In fact, Oregon has some ideas that other states may soon be anxious to copy. This morning, a House committee in Salem discusses two bills that propose turning up the heat on government contractors by setting quality standards and tracking their progress. With billions of dollars of federal stimulus money at stake — and a president who says it must be used to create jobs — states are scrambling to figure out how to meet federal requirements.
Ever since Steve Watson had his first job at age 16 picking
asparagus, he's paid his taxes. And he's always wanted to ensure the
government spends his money wisely.
So naturally, when the 53-year-old heard that President Barack
Obama pledged a new era of transparency with his 3-week-old $787
billion stimulus package, Watson was glad he could log online and check
how every dollar was spent.
Salem, OR — Amidst renewed calls from the Obama administration
for accountability from private contractors on the federal level, the
Oregon State House of Representatives is considering a bill that would
far outstrip the contractor accountability provisions maintained by any
state governments to date.
This Monday at 8am, leading transparency experts from the national
Coalition for an Accountable Recovery (CAR) will testified before the
Oregon House Business and Labor Committee in support of the bill, HB
2037, which would require private contractors in Oregon to disclose the
number of employees and the wages, they pay. This is especially
important with the federal government requiring transparency on jobs
created through the $6.48 billion in federal funds set aside for Oregon
under the recovery plan.
The new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contains significant funding for the states, but it also has tight new transparency rules requiring states to track how all federal funds are being spent and the number of jobs created. These provisions aren't just ethically desirable, they are extremely practical fiscal measures for combating the recession and growing the economy. Strict transparency can save states millions in unnecessary expenditures and increase the quality of work they receive from private contractors, while simultaneously ensuring that contractors create quality, decent-paying jobs to help turn the economy around.
The unfortunate reality is that most states are not collecting the necessary information to meet the standards required by the Recovery Act. This Dispatch is designed to summarize what states need to do.
Gen. Laws Sec. 37-2.3-4 “As part of the
budgetary process, each state agency shall provide an addendum to their
submitted budget request listing all privatization contracts; the name
of each contractor, subcontractor, duration of the contract provided
and services provided; the total cost of each contract(s) for the prior
With the federal government about to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to the states, with many of those funds going to private contractors, a broad-based, bi-partisan coalition of organizations has come together in a Coalition for an Accountable Recovery. The Coalition, which Progressive States Network participated in creating, is promoting reforms at both the federal and state level to assure transparency in how funds are used by federal and state contractors, the number of jobs created, and the quality of jobs created-- with the results posted online in easily searchable websites for the public.
In past Dispatches, we've highlighted the potential and actual taxpayer ripoffs hidden in the industry siren song of selling off public assets like highways. States gets what looks like an attractive upfront payment, but lose in the long-term from lost toll revenue and lost democratic control of transit decisions.
The credit crisis has undermined the financial players who had been leading the charge on privatization, so they are looking for a bailout under the federal recovery plan. As reported by Reuters, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and a number of other firms pushing "public-private partnerships" -- the industry's preferred euphemism for privatization -- wants part of the stimulus package to flow to them. Their wish list includes federal rules to push privatization of airports and highways, along with a national infrastructure bank to subsidize loans for private sector deals.
As states face mounting deficits, corporate lobbyists have been promoting the idea that privatization of public services and assets is a free lunch -- services can be delivered more cheaply than by public employees and public assets like highways can be sold or leased for a hefty return to the taxpayer. As PSN has detailed in our December 2007 report Privatizing in the Dark: The Pitfalls of Privatization & Why Budget Disclosure is Needed, the promises of privatization too often yield to a reality of lost money and degraded services, weak oversight and lost expertise, assets sold off for short-term gains but long-term loss, lost democratic accountability, and the corruption of the political process.