portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts united states

economic justice | government | human & civil rights

Oregon Has $10.91 Billion In Surpluses of the Taxpayers Money it is not using.

The State of Oregon at the State-level has approximately $10.91 billion of the taxpayer's money it is not using, i. e. surpluses equal to $3,111 for every man, woman and child in Oregon or $12,444 for a family of 4. This does not include all the additional surpluses that exist in the school districts, cities, or counties in Oregon.

The Exhibit A below shows the results of the FY 2003 review.
What are these surpluses we refer to?

Government surpluses, as used in this report, are funds that are not required or needed for the operation of all government operations, funds, accounts, agencies, etc., directly or indirectly, for the year(s) covered by the budget which is usually one year. Theoretically, at the end of every fiscal year, governments should have little or no cash/investments on hand. But what we have found is that most governments have huge amounts of cash and investments on hand at the end of the fiscal year. And somehow these cash and investments are not being recycled back through the budget process the next year, but are being held year-after-year.



A Government Can Have a Budget Deficits/Shortfalls and Financial Surpluses At The Same Time.

This is the most deceiving topic that governments, politicians, and the news media have conveyed to the public about governmental financial matters. In realty, a government can simultaneously have a budget shortfall and a financial surplus of the taxpayers' money.

The problems are focused in four areas:

1. The budget only covers a small portion of the State's financial condition. There are a group of funds not part of the budget process. The complete list of funds and budgetary requirements are found in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). This report depicts the complete financial status of the State. The budget only covers a portion of the financial resources of the government.

A Little Background:

The CAFR usually has four categories.

Governmental Funds
Proprietary Funds
Fiduciary Funds
Component Units

Governmental Funds involve activities of the government including most basic services such as environmental resources, general government, transportation, education, health and human services, and protection of persons and property. Most of the cost of these activities are financed by taxes, fees , and federal grants.

Proprietary Funds are used when a government charges customers for the services it provides, whether to outside customers or to other agencies with the state. For example, Enterprise Funds, a component of proprietary funds, are for activities that provide goods and services to outside (non-government) customers, which includes the general public. Fees, charges for services or goods, assessments, fines, licenses, etc. are the major revenue sources.

Fiduciary Funds are activities in which the state acts as a trustee or fiduciary to hold resources for the benefit of others. These funds are pension trust funds, investment trusts, and agency funds (which are for assets held for distribution by the government as an agent for other governmental units, other organizations, or individuals).

Component Units reportedly are legally separated organizations for which the government is financially accountable. Usually fees, charges for services or goods, assessments, fines, penalties, licenses, etc. are the major revenue source.

The budget, as commonly known to the public, only involves the Governmental Funds and may not even include all of the governmental-type funds. The remainder of the Funds shown above are not part of the budget and are commonly called "off-budget" items.

2. Next year's budget consists only of next year's estimated revenues and next year's estimated expenditures. Previous years' revenues not used (spent) are normally not considered in the next year's budget, but should be. In other words, the previous years' revenues (as shown in the CAFR) are not recycled back to the budget process.

Historically, a budget consists of three parts: 1) Funds brought forward (funds not previously spent); 2) Next year's estimated revenues; and 3) Next year's estimated expenditures.

But somewhere along the way the funds brought forward category was lost. In accounting, the previous years' revenues are no longer called revenue but have been converted to Cash and Investments. Since they no longer called Revenues governments have forgotten about them to the public. They are there but not considered in the budget process, but should be.

3. The budgeted items and non-budgeted items (off budget) should be budgeted to zero (usually referred to as zero-based budgeting). In addition, the government should be on a pay-as-you-go basis, no reserves for future years. What this means is that you budget to have a zero fund balance. If you plan to spend $100 you budget for $100 with no excess or reserve allowed.

For example, the State of Oregon Special Revenue Funds (Governmental Funds), considered part of the budget, have fund balances of $769 million that probably will not be considered in the next year's budget. The total cash and investments, funds that were not used during the current year, was $812 million (surplus) and should be part of the next year's budget. So if next year there is a "budget deficit" ask about these funds not being considered or used.

4. Budgeted expenditures should be last year's expenditures (as shown in the CAFR) with an adjustment for increase in requirements (costed out) or reductions in requirements. In most cases the CAFR expenditures are not considered in the next year's budget because the CAFR in many cases is published after next year's budget is considered and sometimes approved.




Running Surpluses is Stealing

Although taxation is legitimate, running a government surplus isn't. It represents a taking by the state, because it exceeds the government's contract with the community. It is no different than if a federal agency were to take a person's land or possessions without just compensation (an activity barred by the Fifth Amendment). Excess taxation isn't what the people bargained for.

In presuming entitlement or authority not ceded by the community, the state abrogates its moral pact with those it governs. Its power is no longer derived from the people, whose rights to liberty and property it boldly denies.



The Governor and the Legislators

The Governor and the legislators should include in the next year's budget the previous years revenues not spent as indicated by the CAFR. These were once a revenue and should still be considered revenue for budgetary purposes.

Also, they should consider a zero-balance budget concept for all budget and non-budgetary items in the CAFR including the College and Universities and the Component Units.

Budgeted expenditures (for the budget) should be last year's expenditures (from the CAFR) adjusted for demonstrated requirement changes in project, program or services. An increase in requirements should include the costs of these additional requirements. Conversely, a decrease in requirements should result in a decrease in costs associated with the decreased requirements.

The Governor and legislators should take into consideration the entire financial condition/status of the State in the budgetary process by including all of the funds in the CAFR as being a part of the budget.

This system is covered in the CAFR Budget System. This system needs to be implemented in all governments.

If the State holds the excesses/surplus, it will earn 4% to 5% on that money. If the State returns the money to the people it will receive 20% in revenue because of the increased economic activity. This is elementary economics.



Laws need to be changed.

Every thing done by governments is by law. There are laws that state this or that regarding the use of some of the funds. Man made the laws, man can change the laws. How much effort would it be to include at the end of every law "...or if considered excess or not needed for the current operation that the funds will be refunded to the taxpayers?" See how easy it is.

At one time every law had its place, but things change. The laws need to be reviewed for change to meet the current needs of the government and the people to release these funds for use/refunded.

If this were accomplished, the State would have a huge surplus to refund (rebate or tax reductions) to the taxpayers. Such a refund would create considerable wealth and jobs, increase wages, increase State and local government revenues, dramatically increase the economy, and create the greatest economic expansion in the history of the State. Everyone wins.

If you want to know the financial condition of your government(s), do not look at the budget. Get the CAFR.



The Synergistic Magic of Economics.

What happens when the government holds the $10.91 billion.

(In Thousands) Investment Income Per Capita Family of 4
The government holds and investments the surpluses at 4.5%. 490,978 140 560

Here is what happens when the $10.91 billion is returned to the taxpayers (the private economy).

(In Thousands) Surplus
Effect Per Capita Family of 4
The surplus is returned to the taxpayers. 10,910,614 3,111 12,444
Wages are increased. 5,455,307 1,556 6,222
State government revenues increase. 2,182,123 622 2,489
Local government revenues increase. 1,745,698 498 1,991
Federal government revenues increase. 4,364,246 1,244 4,978
Total Benefits... 7,031 28,124

In FY 2002 unemployment was 138,000. If the $10.91 billion were returned to the taxpayers, 218,212 jobs would be created. There would be a labor shortage in Oregon. This is why it is disastrous for governments to hold excesses/reserves of the taxpayers money.

Note: The economic impact analysis is further explained at Economic Impact Analysis.




The business community suffers the most.

Before the 9-11 tragedy, President Bush and Congress provided tax rebates which averaged $427 for every American. This was to create an additional $60 billion in consumer (economic) spending, turn the economy around and create jobs for the unemployed. However, 9-11 change that.

As the above economic impact chart shows, if the State returned the $10.91 billion in surpluses to the people the State economy would grow by $6,222 per capita. That is 15 times the amount the Federal government used to stimulate the U.S. economy. Businesses net incomes could double or triple. This is elementary economics.



Examples

The most important item is the SAIF Corporation (workers' compensation), a Component Unit and not part of the budget. The State is trying to run the operation like an insurance company. The State is not a private corporation. Holding reserves is OK for private organizations because if anything goes wrong, there is always the reserve to fall back on so it will not be bankrupt. But for governments it is different. Governments must be non-profit and use pay-as-you-go systems. This is because they have the power to tax, so reserves are not necessary.

The SAIF Corporation had net expenses of $59 million but it has a reserve (cash and investments) of $2.7 billion it is not using. That represents 46 years of reserves. The State created SAIF, the State can dissolve SAIF and institute a pay-as-you-go system. The amount of benefits paid will not change.

Unemployment Compensation, an Enterprise Fund and not part of the budget had net expenses of $220 million. It also had reserves of $1.4 billion. That represents 6 years of reserves.

Veterans' Loan, another Enterprise Fund and not part of the budget, had net expenses of $4 million. It also had reserves of $816 million. Let's see that represents about 207 years of reserves.

Housing and Community Services, another Enterprise Fund and not part of the budget, made a profit of $8.3 million and had cash/investment reserves of $806 million.

Environmental Management, a Governmental Fund and part of the budget, had net expenditures of $15 million and reserves of $277 million. That represents 19 years of reserves.

These only represent five of the 44 funds shown below that had cash and investment reserves not being used.



What to do?

Unless the budget flaws are corrected and the entire State finances are used in the budget process, the problems that created the surpluses will continue to exist. The budget deficits reported by the Governor and legislatures will be used year after year for the excuses for tax increases and/or to reduce needed services.

Just stopping a tax increase or a reduction in services will not solve the problems. The problems will come back the next year.

I have provided the details of the surpluses and explained the ways the surpluses are accumulated. The data is accurate because it comes directly from the government's own financial statement, the CAFR. You must provide the where-with-all to convince the Governor and legislatures that the surpluses exist and what should be done about it. I live in Arizona. It is not my money that is at stake.



Exhibit A

The 2003 CAFR is located at:

 http://scd.das.state.or.us/publications.htm

Items not Included

The following items are not included in the amount of surplus shown:

-Buildings, roads, bridges, land (not for sale), and equipment.

-Deferred compensation plans for employees. These are plans in which the employee contributes to his/her retirement over and above the normal employee retirement contribution.

-Any fund that is 100% supported by donations, bequests, gifts, endowments, etc. These are not taxpayers money.

-For Colleges and Universities. All endowment and similar-type funds should not be included as surpluses. Sometimes these funds are combined with other college/university funds. We are interested in surpluses, so in these cases the total amount should not be included.

-Funds in which the revenues/contributions are 100% held for other individuals, organizations or another government.

-Funds that are required by law in which a bank, financial institution, insurance companies, etc. are required to deposit with the government a certain amount for insurance against the entity going bankrupt. These are not taxpayers' money.

-Retirement/Pension Funds - only included are 1/2 of the actuarially determined excesses, the taxpayers portion. The other 1/2 is the government employees portion.



Review of The State of Oregon CAFR- FY 2003

CAFR Page List of Investments By Fund (In thousands) Surpluses
Governmental Funds and Activities:
28 General 22,732
28 Health and Social Services 249,741
28 Public Transportation 527,271
29 Environmental Management 277,453
29 Education Support 52,811
Special Revenue:
102 Agricultural Resources 12,064
102 Business Development 157,255
102 Community Protection 78,295
103 Consumer Protection 129,185
103 Employment Services 285,057
103 Nutritional Support 5,394
103 Residential Assistance 66,627
103 Other Special Revenue 78,718
Debt Service:
104 Revenue Bond Fund 72,556
104 Certificates of Participation 243
104 General Obligation Bond 4,732
104 General Appropriation Bond 17,274
Capital Projects:
105 Capital Projects 35,584
Permanent Fund:
105 Education Endowment
105 Housing Guarantee 17,574
105 Other Permanent 9,687
Proprietary Funds:
Enterprise Funds:
36 Housing and Community Services 805,685
36 Veterans' Loan 816,047
36 Lottery Operations 312,550
37 Unemployment Compensation 1,373,897
37 University System 617,598
Nonmajor Funds:
112 Energy Loan 49,233
112 Water Resources 3,482
112 Business Development 6,437
113 Special Public Works 67,047
113 State Hospitals 2,453
113 Liquor Control 16,272
113 Veterans' Home 479
113 Water 51,480
113 Other Enterprise 47,795
Internal Service:
122 Central Services 233,833
122 Legal Services 11,783
122 Banking Services 1,772
123 Audit Services 1,309
123 Forestry Services 3,548
123 Other Internal Service 4,592
Fiduciary Funds:
Pension:
132 Public Employees Retirement
132 Postemployment Healthcare
132 Deferred Compensation
Private Purpose Trust:
134 Common School 755,343
134 Other Private Purpose Trust 35,674
Investment Trust
138 Agency Funds
Discretely Presented Component Units:
48 SAIF Corporation 2,711,499
48 Oregon Health and Science University 880,553
Total Surpluses... 10,910,614
Per Capita... 3,111
Family of 4... 12,444

Note: For those familiar with governmental accounting, for surpluses we basically used GFOA Balance Sheet Account Classification Codes 101, 102, 103, 151, 153, and 170.
Source: http://www.cafrman.com/Articles/Art-OR-S1.htm
hmm 06.Jun.2004 06:10

Kitanis

So can I convince the state to give me a $1,200.00 break on my property tax next year?

I doubt it. Oregon is a state that has run-away spending in the government and its getting worse every year. But Its my home state so until I am forced to move to another. It is My HOME of Record