Apr
19
2012


COST just received word that HB 1252, a bill that would require Colorado’s institutions of higher education to make public financial information accessible online, finally will be heard in the House Appropriations Committee next week.  An amended version of sponsor BJ Nikkel’s bill passed the House education committee on February 27.

Sources tell us that the lengthy period between votes has allowed Colorado State University (CSU) and Colorado School of Mines to lobby lawmakers urging them to vote against transparency. Based on our experience, these two schools are incredibly arrogant when it comes to complying with Colorado Open Records Acts (CORA) requests so we aren’t surprised that they do not want taxpayers to have online access to salaries and expenditures.

Our sources close to the situation tell COST that Mines is particularly worried about divulging details of travel expenditures, which prompted us to send Mines a CORA request for the information. Travel expenditure information is available with little detail and no context on the state’s Transparency Online Project Website. We asked for more detailed information. The CORA request is available below. Mines responded that they received the request and would get back in touch when they had a cost estimate.

We’ve also heard that a lobbyist for one of the institutions is warning legislators that the bill will force public disclosure of private donor information. That’s laughable because the bill says nothing of the sort and, furthermore, private donor information is not a matter of public record when given to a non-profit organizations.

What amazes COST is how hard some in higher education are working to kill this bill. They’ve saddled it with a nearly $4 million fiscal note, a well-known trick to kill legislation. Supposedly these institutions represent our best and brightest. To say the least, it is a stretch to believe that institutions boasting noble prize winners, world class research, and hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer grant money, can’t figure out how to put some public information online in a cost effective manner so taxpayers, students, parents, alumni, faculty, and anyone else can see how their money is being utilized.

The question remains which legislators on the House Appropriations Committee will support transparency and which ones won’t.  Rep. Nikkel is a Republican, but the vote on this bill may buck conventional wisdom and not fall along party lines. Transparency has an interesting history of garnering both bi-partisan support and bi-partisan opposition depending on the entity.

COST’s take: Rep Nikkel will be able to rely upon at least a couple of democrats to support her in her efforts to bring greater transparency to higher education. In particular, House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino has proven to be a solid supporter of financial transparency measures regardless of the sponsor’s political affiliation. At the same time, some Republicans may vote to kill it. The committee members are listed below:

Chair: Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan)

Vice Chair: Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen)

Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland)

Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver)

Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs)

Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Gunbarrel)

Andy Kerr (D-Lakewood)

Claire Levy (D-Boulder)

Marsha Looper (R-Monument)

Dan Pabon (D-Denver)

Judy Solano (D-Brighton)

Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling)

Glenn Vaad (R-Mead)

COST will update the status of HB 1252 as soon as the vote is taken.

Full disclosure: Transparency Project director Amy Oliver Cooke testified in favor of the bill when it was heard in the House Education Committee. She was in excellent company with Jessica Peck of the Open Government Institute and University of Colorado Regents Sue Sharkey and Jim Geddes who also testified in favor.

CORA on Mines travel expenditures




Mar
16
2012


The first step toward religious persecution is identification, and that is exactly what Senator Morgan Carroll wants to force hospitals to do that don’t perform abortions or provide other services based on “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”  SB 93, her bill that passed the Colorado state senate on along a party line vote, would require:

A hospital…shall provide notice in a manner, specified by the Department of Public Health and Environment, of all services that the hospital refuses to provide because of religious beliefs or moral convictions. The hospital shall provide the notice required by this section prior to or at admission of the patient or as soon after admission as is practicable.

In a Colorado Observer article, Carroll acknowledges that her bill is “controversial” but that it is really about “disclosing the truth” and “transparency.” Carroll employs feel good reasons for her required religious identification.

The justification reminds COST of how the Taliban explained a May 2001 edict requiring Afghan Hindus to wear identification. ABC News reported that Taliban officials claimed it was for Hindus own safety:

Munawaar Hasan, general secretary of a major Islamic political party called Jamaat-e-Islami, or Islamic Party, said the move seems aimed to give protection to Hindus. ‘The Taliban should win praise for this step,’ he said. ‘Providing protection to religious minorities is a must in any Islamic country and this step seems in line with this concept.’

ABC News quoted a Hindu living in Kabul, the capitol city, who had a different perspective:

Anar, an Afghan Hindu in Kabul who uses just one name, said he does not want to wear a label identifying him as Hindu. ‘It will make us vulnerable and degrade our position in the society,’ he said.

International observers agreed with Anar claiming the real reason was to segregate and isolate Hindus.

Carroll gives away her real reason for the religious identification requirement as the Observer reports:

Faith-based hospitals may have policies that conflict with reproductive health care choices of women and HIV treatment and protection services sought by gay men, said Carroll. In addition, same sex couples may not be allowed to visit their partners who are hospitalized.

SB 93 is more about Carroll’s moral beliefs, and a hospital that disagrees with her must identify itself. It’s not a stretch to assume that Carroll would like these hospitals to be marginalized. The first step is identification.

SB 93 is a perversion of the term “transparency” as it applies to government, which was a trend for citizens to watch government not government forced religious identification.

COST is confident that this bill will die in the Republican-controlled House, but the fact that every Democrat in the state senate voted “yes” should frighten all Coloradans.

Hear constitutional scholar Rob Natelson’s take on SB 93 on the Amy Oliver Show on News Talk 1310 KFKA.




Mar
03
2012


Brittany Anas of the Daily Camera reports that University of Colorado President Bruce Benson wanted to speed up the vote on CU’s proposed 15.7 percent tuition hike in order to minimize media scrutiny.

Below is a compensation report with details of raises for administration and faculty after the last 9.3 percent tuition hike. (This report was acquired through an open records request) The reported increase in salaries may explain why President Benson wanted to fast-track the vote. The raises vary from under two percent to nearly 18 percent.

If CU has nothing to hide, then President Benson should welcome a spirited and transparent debate over tuition increases.

FY 2011-2012 Comp Report – Ex Session




Feb
24
2012


I had a simple mission. Find out how many employees were making above $100,000 in total compensation in Colorado’s institutions of higher education. I also wanted a two year comparison so that I could see how much, if any, employee compensation had increased.

More importantly, this turned out to be an exercise in transparency and attitude. Which institutions were cooperative and helpful? Which were not?

Thinking this information already might be centralized, I sent an inquiry email to Chad Marturano, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Colorado Department of Higher Education (DHE), on November 29, 2011:

Hello Chad –
Does the Commission on Higher Education maintain a database on compensation for state universities’ and colleges’ employees? If not, do you know where I would go to get such information?

I look forward to your response.

Thank you.
Amy

I’m still looking forward to the response. Turns out DHE does have quite a bit of information such as a decade of tuition and fee increases, but nothing on compensation.

Beginning on December 8, 2011, I began sending out Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests to the University of Colorado (all campuses), Colorado State University (all campuses), Colorado School of Mines, University of Northern Colorado, Metro State College, Colorado Mesa University, Western State College, and Adams State College.

For several institutions I included a request for details of overtime pay. Below is an example of the CORA I sent. Following are links to all the CORAs.

December 8, 2011

Colorado State University System

Office of General Counsel

410 Seventeenth Street

Suite 2440

Denver, CO 80202

To the Office of General Counsel Colorado State University System:

Pursuant to the state open records law, Colo. Rev. Stat. Secs. 24-72-101 to 24-72-402, I write to request access to and a copy of a list of all employees by position with total compensation over $100,000 for all CSU campuses. This includes, but not limited to, salaries, bonuses, insurance, travel allowance, retirement contributions, cell phone allowances, and over time payments for 2010 and 2011. Also, all “end of year” summaries for overtime paid to all departments and/or to all employees for 2008-2010, or any spreadsheet or document that tracks overtime by department and/or by employee.

I prefer the information be in electronic format if possible.

If your agency does not maintain these public records, please let me know who does and include the proper custodian’s name and address.

I agree to pay any reasonable copying and postage fees of not more than $75.00. If the cost would be greater than this amount, please notify me. Please provide a receipt indicating the charges for each document.

As provided by the open records law, I will expect your response with three (3) business days. If you choose to deny this request, please provide a written explanation for the denial including a reference to the specific statutory exemption(s) upon which you rely. Also, please provide all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Amy O Cooke

Director, Colorado Transparency Project

Independence Institute

13952 Denver West Parkway

Suite 400

Golden, CO 80401

amy@i2i.org

970-371-3413

Link to CORAs:

Adams State

Colorado School of Mines

Mesa State

Metro State

University of Colorado (all campuses)

University of Northern Colorado

Western State College

Responses: The Good, The Bad…

The information requested was a matter of open record so nothing should have been denied. But this is not so much about the actual information, rather the attitude of the institutions when asked a question about how they spend money.

The Good:

Mesa State could not have been more accommodating. They even invited me to come visit their campus. They seemed genuinely sincere in wanting to make sure I got all the information requested. Seriously, as a mom, I want my high school senior to attend Mesa because they were so nice about providing information. Amazing what a little kindness can do.

Metro State sets the gold standard for transparency in salary information. The Denver based college provides several years worth of salary information including name, position, salary, and percent increase on their Web site. Proof that it can be done if an institution truly believes in transparency.

Adams State*, Western State, and the University of Northern Colorado were also cooperative with the CORAs. None seemed put out by having to provide information that is a matter of public record to a citizen who requested it. To them, I say thank you for your attention.

*I did not get Adams State response scanned in time for this report. I will provide an update with a link. The fault was mine and not that of Adams State, an institution, which happily provided most information requested.

The Bad:

School of Mines was just arrogant (response here). Esther Henry, Associate Counsel, instructed me to go to the school library to get the salary information. I wondered if that is the standard operating procedure for those who live and work on the Western Slope – just drive hundreds of miles to get information that is a matter of public record.

Ms. Henry told me that to get information on overtime by department Mines would have to develop a program and it would cost me $679.24.  What Ms. Henry didn’t know is that I already had the figure in aggregate by institution (Higher Ed overtime figures):

  • 2008 — $75,855
  • 2009 — $79,177
  • 2010 — $65,565
  • 2011 — $39,768

So I know that Mines had the information, but the institution chose to be difficult. This is typical tactic to keep information from citizens.

Colorado State University chose not to be helpful either. Rather it provided a list of those making over $100,000 in the CSU system and then referred me to “page 4 of the policy” on open records. In other words, we won’t help you by forwarding the request. Also, CSU won’t accept email CORAs. I had to send it via certified mail.

Finally, CSU asserted, “as to the second portion of your request relating to all “end of year” summaries for all overtime payments, CSUS has no such document.” Maybe CSUS doesn’t have it, but someone does and yet CSU chose NOT to be helpful. I know this because, once again, I did have the figures in aggregate:

  • 2008 — $6,396,989
  • 2009 — $7,348.222
  • 2010 — $6,361,543
  • 2011 — $6,900,866

Wondering why the figures for CSU were so high? Me too. They finally provided an explanation and revised figures, which tells me CSU had the information in the first place.

The Mediocre:

CU finally did give me salary information and a formula for figuring benefits but it wasn’t easy. Frankly, while they claimed to embrace transparency, they didn’t seem sincere. Links to the response is below. Feel free to peruse the compensation reports, would love to hear your feedback. Warning: they are lengthy.

I still haven’t received a response about why employee salary funding sources appear to transpose between “state funding” to “non-state funding” from one year to the next.

FY2011-2012 University of Colorado Compensation Report

Personnel Roster salary information by employee number

CU Website on salary information

Conclusion:

Honestly, no institution provided all information requested as I envisioned it but some truly wanted to understand what I was asking for and provide the correct information. Others, such as Mines and CSU, were arrogant and appeared to be indifferent to a request for information from a Colorado taxpayer.

This exercise highlights the deficiencies with Colorado’s open records law. It is subject to interpretation by the responding government agency and thus it gets to decide what information to release.

Making more information available online would help alleviate this problem.




Feb
24
2012


When government uses “transparency” to watch citizens, that’s a strong signal that transparency has been perverted. Originally, a movement for citizens to shine a light on government, government now is passing laws so that it can collect legally your most private health care information. Linda Gorman and I authored a column that originally appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

State Forces People to Choose Between Medical Care, Exposing Personal Lives

By Amy Oliver Cooke and Linda Gorman

Though state officials like to preach about controlling health care costs with “health transparency,” and make all kinds of claims about helping people shop for health care, their actions suggest that the real goal is to collect and store information on your every action even if doing so increases health care costs. When government can track your every behavior, it gains a great deal of power to monitor and control your actions.

In 2010, the General Assembly passed HB 1330. It established Colorado’s All-Payer Database (APDB). The law says an Administrator can collect whatever medical data it wishes from every health care “payer” in the state. If you pay cash you are a “payer.” The Administrator can fine those who don’t comply.

The APDB was to be paid for without public money. But supporters knew that private grant funding was already in place, some of it from the same groups that bankrolled ObamaCare. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing appointed the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC) as the administrator. It immediately removed itself from the Department and set up shop as a private 501(c)(3) with potential access to all of your health records.

CIVHC plans to sell support itself by entering into “contractual agreements” with the state to provide information on Medicaid, a backdoor way of getting its hands on the very taxpayer dollars that weren’t supposed to support it. In addition, it also plans to sell your data to various commercial interests at $50,000 a pop and charge the providers required to provide data to it.

Medical privacy? They’re pretending about that, too.

CIVHC CEO Phil Kalin recently wrote, “No identified data will be available in the datasets or reports we provide. Social Security numbers and personal health information will be stripped, a unique identified assigned.” But he also wrote that “public health agencies want to understand patterns of disease diagnosis and treatment, and whether public education campaigns are followed by increased preventive services provided to patients.” CIVHC has written of plans to monitor total spending on a defined group of individuals over time.

As University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm, points out “data can be either useful or perfectly anonymous but never both.” In short, a database that is supposed to report on treatment efficacy and value must include all the data of a clinical trial. In addition to all of the information available to your physician, pharmacist, and hospital, the APDB must include information about your personal habits, income, education, and family life.

With all this data it won’t be hard to figure out, or steal, the identity of the unidentified married white female teacher who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 160 pounds, was born on January 2, 1985, is married, has two children aged 5 and 7, had appendicitis treated at Poudre Valley Hospital 6 years ago, had her second child at Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs, had an abortion 3 years ago, is in therapy, contracted giardia on a trip to New Zealand, is on the pill, and lives in zip code 80908.

An identity that is safe in paper files kept in separate offices, becomes easy to steal when uploaded into an electronic database and InformationWeek reports that health data breaches were up 97 percent in 2011. In Britain, which just canceled its electronic health record program, stories of sales of stolen patient records are common. In 2009, files containing personalized hospital records were offered for sale for about $7 each.

And as if the APDB isn’t enough, Representative Summers and Massey, along with Senator Betty Boyd are sponsoring HB12-1242. Under that bill, you won’t be able to get prescription medications or controlled over-the-counter medications without providing a biometric identifier like a fingerprint or a retinal scan. The government doesn’t have biometric information on most law-abiding individuals. Failure to comply with its effort to get it would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, a crime as serious as the possession of child pornography or third degree assault.

The real assault is on personal liberty. The APDB needs to be repealed. Colorado officials have no business forcing people to choose between medical care and exposing their personal lives to hackers, busybody bureaucrats, and commercial interests. Nor do they have any business increasing the cost of health care by imposing requirements of unproven worth on those who work hard to pay for their own health care.

If requiring voters to show ID is an unacceptable infringement of rights, so is requiring people to choose between health care and personal privacy. Officials who fail to repeal the APDB enable the ongoing assault on individual liberty.




Jan
22
2012


Transparency is still an issue at the state capitol. Early in this 2012 legislative session, three bills could provide taxpayers with additional transparency in government.

HB12-1009 Federal Funds Transparency Act

House Sponsors: Cheri Gerou (R-HD 25)

Senate Sponsors: Kent Lambert (R-SD 9 )

This bill seeks additional information than is currently provided on how each department and agency of the executive branch spends federal tax dollars. Most importantly, the agency or department must provide “plans for operating the state agency if there is a reduction” in federal funding of five percent or more.

This is a common sense bill that forces state agencies that rely heavily upon the federal government such as the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO), Education Department, and Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to address possible future austerity measures. For the GEO, which received and spent hundreds of millions of federal taxpayer dollars with little accountability, the time for planning for life after stimulus money is now.

Prediction: This bill will pass the House. It should pass the Senate but won’t. The excuse will be that it is too much to ask of overworked state employees.

HB12-1118 School Collective Bargaining Open to Public

House Sponsors: Kathleen Conti (R-HD 38)

Senate Sponsors: None

This bill declares that collective bargaining negotiations between boards of education or school administration personnel and union representatives are part of the people’s business and thus must be open to the public.

In addition, the terms of the written collective bargaining agreement must be made available for public inspection.

This issue erupted last spring as my colleague Ben DeGrow explained in his April 2011 opinion editorial:

The collective bargaining agreement that gives the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) exclusive representation more than 5,000 district teachers plainly sets transparency as the default setting: “Negotiations shall be conducted in open sessions, unless both parties agree to the contrary.”

Nevertheless, the language is hollow. In recent years, while negotiations were supposed to be open, finding any information of times and locations on district outlets has been next to impossible.

This year it has become even worse. On April 11 at a joint appearance, JCEA president Kerrie Dallman and Jeffco superintendent Cynthia Stevenson publicly concurred that all negotiations had been closed.

Conti is not out of line for requiring this kind of transparency. “Six other states have enacted laws ensuring public access to negotiations between government agencies and employee unions,” writes DeGrow. While…”Colorado leaves it up to local discretion. Only one of 42 school districts that practice union bargaining, Poudre R-1 in Fort Collins, thoroughly ensures citizens’ right to observe negotiations. Poudre officials have observed “no negative effects” from the practice.”

Prediction: This bill passes through the House but union lobby in the Senate lead by Evie Hudak will make sure it dies in committee.

SB12-084 PERA Transparency

Senate Sponsor: Kent Lambert (R-SD 9)

House Sponsor: Spencer Swalm (R-HD 37)

This bill requires transparency for Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) members and retirees “who have ever been elected officials or cabinet-level appointees of elected officials.” Data elements to include:

  • Person’s name
  • Each position held
  • Amount of any annual salary paid for each position
  • Amount of employer and employee contributions paid on such salary
  • Age of retirement
  • Highest average salary
  • Amount of benefits paid

When State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a statutory member of the PERA board, has to sue to get information regarding benefits paid and plan solvency, taxpayers realize they are past due for PERA transparency.

Prediction: The state employees union and PERA lobby will kill this bill in the Senate. Too bad.

Check the Transparency blog for updates. We’ll track the legislation so you don’t have to.




Jan
11
2012


The column below appeared originally in the Summit Daily on December 22, 2011.

Colorado’s all-payer database poses serious risk, little gain

By Amy Oliver Cooke and Linda Gorman

Colorado state government, and local foundations and health policy elites, have become so ideologically invested in failed health reform policies that they now see nothing wrong with forcing Colorado citizens to give their medical records to a centralized repository, free from scrutiny by state auditors, open records requests and open meeting requirements.

In 2010, state lawmakers passed HB 1330, which created the All-Payer Claim Database. It was an exceedingly vague piece of legislation. It created the usual sycophantic advisory committee to give an illusion of public control, but the real power was given to an “Administrator” empowered to collect whatever medical data it wished from every “payer” in the state. The Administrator may impose unspecified fines on payers who refuse to comply. The database was to be operational only if private funding could be found. With funding already in place from private sources intent on promoting government-controlled health care, the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC) was appointed as the Administrator for the database. CIVHC promptly converted itself from an entity subject to public oversight to a private 501(c)3 nonprofit.

CIVHC supporters claim the database will be secure, that individual identities will be protected by encrypted Social Security numbers, and that individual privacy is protected by HIPAA.

These claims are disingenuous at best. Encrypted Social Security numbers do not protect individual identities in a database that also contains information on an individual’s gender, address, race, spouse, children, dependents, insurance group, insurance contract and member number, and the doctor, place of treatment, time of treatment, diagnosis, place of care, prescription drugs, and payments for all medical treatments for everyone covered under any insurance policy or making a cash payment.

Centralized electronic medical records have been maintained by Britain’s National Health Service for almost a decade with predictable and disastrous results. In April 2010, London’s Daily Telegraph reported that private detectives were selling top-secret patient information for up to £300 a pop. This means that if you or your spouse or children have ever seen someone for psychiatric care, an abortion, a sexually transmitted disease, or substance abuse, anyone with access to the database will be able to figure out who you are and use that information against you. Alternatively, you could be wrongly diagnosed as an alcoholic or a sexual abuser, have the diagnosis entered in your record, and be threatened by a blackmailer.

Good luck proving a negative.

CIVHC supporters say the All-Payer Database is essential because they cannot “manage what they cannot measure.” Never mind that people who pay for their own health care are perfectly competent to manage it themselves or hire others to do so, or that CIVHC’s form of centralized management has failed everywhere it has been tried. Claims that the database will improve medical care are nonsense because it does not collect the detailed physiographic information required by clinical studies that do. What it will do is add substantially to medical care costs.

All existing public information suggests that CIVHC plans to use the All-Payer Database to bring private medical care under the control of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. Its metrics emphasize imposing price controls on insurers, and physicians, targeting people who are obese, limiting physician freedom to recommend treatments, making sure that individuals have “advance directives” in place, monitoring the amount spent on the last six months of life, and limiting Colorado health spending to a fixed percentage of the state’s gross state product.

As it is cheaper to let people die than treat them, it is but a short step from this to copying the European tradition of letting underweight babies die, forcing the elderly to accept palliative care, and denying advanced care to the disabled and seriously ill.

Amy Oliver Cooke directs the Colorado Transparency Project (COST) at the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Colorado. Linda Gorman is director of the Independence Institute’s Health Care Policy Center.




Dec
02
2011


Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a rare voice of reason on Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) Board of Trustees, told News Talk 1310 KFKA talk show host Amy Oliver in a recent interview that when the Board voted to maintain an unrealistic 8 percent rate of return one Board member provided the following reason, ”We can’t lower the rate of return because then we would have to explain why SB 1 didn’t solve the problem.”

The unnamed Board member referred to Senate Bill 1 passed in 2010 with support for the PERA Board of Trustees, which was supposed to bring PERA back to solvency.

Oh, the horror of admitting a mistake! Surely wounded pride is much worse than continuing PERA’s unrealistic expectations on the rate of return, which will leave taxpayers and PERA members on the hook for a massive shortfall anywhere from $21 billion to $35 billion.

Certainly it’s better to ignore industry experts and save face in the present than face the reality of PERA’s insolvency.

In a Denver Post guest editorial last spring, Stapleton courageously exposed the “hard truth” of PERA’s future if we continue with current policy:

PERA is not structurally sound, and Coloradans are on the hook should the system fail. Although the stock market recouped some of its sharp losses in 2010 and Senate Bill 1 made incremental improvements last year, PERA still maintains an unfunded liability of close to $25 billion, which is the measure of what it owes compared to its assets.

If this current and growing gap is not addressed, which Forbes magazine estimates at $15,000 for every Colorado taxpayer, the people of Colorado are ultimately responsible for funding this massive shortfall.

Just add that $15,000 to our current unfunded federal liabilities, which is somewhere north of $1,000,000 per taxpayer.

The eight members of the PERA Board (five voted against maintaining the 8 percent rate of return) aren’t the only ones unwilling to face reality. State Representative Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), now looking to challenge Congressman Scott Tipton in the 3rd CD, did vote against SB 1 but only because he doesn’t think PERA has a solvency problem. The Pueblo Chieftain quoted from Pace’s Web site in February 2010:

‘I voted against the proposal because I don’t believe that the problems with PERA need an immediate fix and the solutions proposed unduly placed a burden on our seniors,’ Pace said in a statement on his Web site Tuesday.

Pace noted the high concentration of PERA enrollees in Pueblo and said projections that PERA would be insolvent within 20 years don’t take into account the possibility that the slumping economy will rebound, and that a target date for solvency of 50-60 years from now (which before SB1 had been the goal) ‘would be less onerous and more fair.’

The “possibility that the slumping economy will rebound”? I keep that “possibility” right next to my unicorn feed.




Nov
11
2011


Stryker Corporation announced it “will cut 5% of its global workforce by the end of next year to reduce costs in the face of new fees on device makers required by the U.S. health care law,” reports the Detroit Free Press. According to Stryker, “job cuts will reduce annual pretax operating costs by more than $100 million beginning in 2013, when the medical-device excise tax is scheduled to take effect.”

Stryker was founded by Dr. Homer Stryker, a Michigan orthopedic surgeon, to improve the quality of health care for his patients. Ironically, two of his grandchildren Jon and Pat Stryker have donated millions to democrat candidates and leftist causes that support Obamacare — the very law cited above which destroys the health care their grandfather advanced and kills jobs. Yet, the siblings are often called “philanthropists” and even list themselves as such for political contributions. Stryker employees won’t think the siblings very charitable considering the their political contributions have led to workers’ job losses.

But workers are the little people.

Jon Stryker, worth $1.1 billion and number 375 on the list of Forbes 400 richest Americans, has donated $2,658,193 to democrats candidates, including Barack Obama and Charles Schumer, political action committees, 527s, and democrat party funds between 1999 and 2012 election cycle based on a search on Open Secrets.

Forbes lists Pat Stryker, one of the infamous “gang of four,” at number 331 worth $1.3 billion. Maybe granddad Stryker liked Pat better than Jon, or sister Ronda best of all.  At number 171, Ronda Stryker is worth $2.3 billion, but doesn’t donate much politically according to Open Secrets. Sister Pat, on the other hand, has donated $2,979,292 to democrats such as Barack Obama and one-term Congresswoman Betsy Markey and their leftist causes between 1999 and 2012 election cycle.

Both Jon and Pat are routinely in the top 15 donors to 527s. Maybe Jon and Pat can set up a fund for the Stryker employees their political donations helped to displace.

 




Nov
08
2011


Want to know the answer to that question? Then read the new report from the Independence Institute Education Policy Center titled Time to Show the Money.

Co-authors research associate Devan Crean and senior policy analyst Ben DeGrow reviewed 178 K-12 school districts, 16 BOCES, and the Charter School Institute to determine if they were compliant with 2010 Public School Financial Transparency Act.

Crean and DeGrow’s research found “only 24 of the state’s 195 school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) fulfill all of the Public School Financial Transparency Act’s requirements to post budgets, audits, financial statements and expenditures online.” Most of those are the state’s larger districts.

Hear DeGrow go into more detail about K-12 transparency during his interview on the Amy Oliver Show on News Talk 1310 KFKA. He also provides insight into the state’s election results and what they mean for K-12. If you want to know how your local district fared, find out by reading the paper. If they didn’t do well, then ask your district to show you the money!