Knute Buehler, Republican Party and Independent Party nominee for Oregon secretary of state, announced proposed reforms Thursday to improve the office's auditing functions and to improve the Public Employee Retirement System.
Buehler, a Bend resident, was joined by state Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, who is leading the fight to reform PERS in the Legislature.
"The secretary of state is beholden only to the citizens of Oregon and should ensure all agencies are efficient, programs meet benchmarks, and point out when counties, cities and public programs are in danger of insolvency," Buehler said. "One of the most pressing financial issues in need of reform is the Public Employee Retirement System, and I intend to introduce and advocate for those reforms."
Conger added, "PERS is one of the largest cost drivers in our state. It is draining critical resources that could be spent in our classrooms and protecting our communities. We need leaders like Knute Buehler who are willing to take on this difficult issue and protect the essential services that Oregonians depend on."
On audits, Buehler said he will work closely with the Legislature to use audits to improve the budgeting process for state agencies as well as assist with the implementation of the new outcome based budgeting approach. He also pledged a more rigorous approach to reviewing and monitoring local government audits.
"Unfortunately, under (Democrat incumbent) Kate Brown, the office has let far too many audits sit on the shelf," Buehler said, pointing out examples like the cities of Molalla, Oakridge and Creswell.
Among his PERS reforms, Buehler said he will propose and advocate for eliminating the practice of "double dipping," capping the cost of living adjustment, and reducing the guaranteed rate of return to six percent. Buehler also pledged to not join PERS and thus eliminate any conflict of interest.
"The reform of Oregon's public employees retirement system is one of the most pressing financial issues facing the state. It impacts every level of government," Buehler said. "The increased costs lead to fewer teachers in our classrooms, fewer police in our neighborhoods, and reduce services across all sectors of government."
Additional details about Buehler's proposals are included below.
For more information, contact Kevin Curry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-805-6016 or Jordan Conger at email@example.com or 541-633-9719.
Proposed Reforms to the Secretary of State’s Audit Division
The Secretary of State has the power and the responsibility to audit all state agencies and programs and look for ways to improve efficiency, performance, and value. The Secretary of State is beholden only to the citizens of Oregon and should ensure all agencies are efficient, programs meet benchmarks, and point out when counties, cities and public programs are in danger of insolvency.
As our Secretary of State, Knute Buehler will make the position a leader in getting more out of our tax dollars by helping to those who need it most. He will push to increase audits and make agencies accountable to taxpayers – freeing up funds for critical programs like schools, law enforcement, and families in need.
1. Require all major agencies to complete audits
Knute will make sure that all major state agencies are doing their statutorily mandated annual internal audits. He will also increase performance based auditing of state agencies so that Oregonians get the biggest bang for their tax dollars.
2. Use audits to assist the Legislature with budgeting
Completing an audit is only the first step. If it sits on a shelf, it doesn't do any good. As Secretary of State, Knute will provide the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee with meaningful performance based audit information to help them develop agency budgets.
3. Work with the Governor to implement outcome based budgeting
Senate Bill 676 (2012) changed the way Oregon is supposed to build a budget. The bill requires a new outcome based budgeting approach. Knute will work cooperatively with the Governor to facilitate the implementation of this approach and to ensure the Legislature has the audit information needed to successfully and prudently build a state budget.
4. Review, monitor and provide feedback on local government audits
The Secretary of State's office is tasked with reviewing the annual audits that local governments must complete. Unfortunately, under Kate Brown, the office has let far too many audits sit on the shelf. City of Molalla, City of Oakridge, City of Creswell, LaPine Soil and Water District, and the Clackamas River Water District have all had problems over the past 18 months that were indicated in their audits. Yet the Secretary of State failed to sound the alarm.
Knute will protect taxpayers and ratepayers by making sure local government audits are reviewed and assistance is provided where appropriate.
5. Track the performance of the Governor's health and education initiatives
Healthcare and education make up nearly 75 percent of the Oregon budget. It is imperative that new initiatives in those areas are tracked closely to make sure Oregonians are getting the best bang for their buck. As a physician, board member at St. Charles Medical Center and former board member at OSU Cascades, Knute is in a unique position to track these budgets because he understands and has experience in these areas.