I'd like to thank you all for the opportunity to speak and I wish President VanBeveren well with his kitchen.
I've sent you a video presentation on my budget thoughts and ideas and I'd like for all of you to watch it and give any feedback. I know Neil has and I'd like to publically thank him for doing so.
I've submitted the script to it and I'd like to go over just a few of the ideas.
Regarding LIFT costs, I realize appearances can be deceiving, but it seems many LIFT users could potentially ride regular service if given some help.
Why not provide travel assistants who can get them to their destinations successfully and safely without a full-on LIFT ride? People might even volunteer to do it in exchange for free tickets, saving the costs of the driver, fuel and vehicle maintenance.
Why not look into setting up remote overnight bus parking to eliminate the dozens of buses that run empty for long distances each weekday, such as between the garage in southeast Portland and routes in Sherwood or north Wilsonville?
To keep costs low these could be used for rush hour-only runs so the vehicles can be serviced at regular garages during the mid-day.
But the big budget issue, of course, is health care.
And as a rider, I don't want to see more district money going towards health care, but I don't think employees deserve what amounts to a pay cut either.
In Neil's response to my presentation, he said "the key—and I think most if not all health analysts agree with this—is that employees have 'skin in the game,' (such as) financial incentives for making good decisions", and that this "requires a different kind of health plan than" is currently in effect.
Now I don't know what insurance you have since, unlike him, you don't get compensated to come here, but when you go to the doctor, how do you know if you are getting the best value? And this goes for the employees, too.
But, unless I'm missing something, I haven't seen discussion of alternate plans from either side. All I've seen is bickering over who's going to be stuck paying ever-increasing insurance payments to Regence and Keiser. And what has the district or the employees gotten in exchange for huge rate hikes?
What I envision is a system where everybody is given an account and is responsible for their care. They could either choose the insurance plan they want or, I believe even better, pay for care directly as they go and choose the best values.
Costs would be controlled by requiring co-insurance based on income above a certain level or borrowing from future benefits, and participants could be given a percentage of any remaining balance at year's end in cash.
In addition, patients and providers would no longer have to spend time and money hassling with insurers to get them to pay for care.
Why not work together, and with other unions and employers who may also be suffering and hate dealing with insurance, and try to solve the problem? Make it so health care doesn't have to be bargained for and parties don't have to bargain over it. Make it so the district isn't responsible for retiree health care but retirees are assured care.
Furthermore, how much has the high per-employee cost of health insurance factored into the extensive overtime the district gives out? Eliminating the cost link would allow the district to have more employees and create more jobs per dollar. Even if less than half of overtime premiums could be cut, the district could save $1-2 million.
And there may be many other organizations that would create new jobs, commuters and payroll taxes if it weren't for the health care burden.
I request that the district work with me to help make these savings a reality, and make it so we can possibly expand instead of looking for places to cut.