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An electric idea to save taxpayers half-a-million bucks

QuickPoint!

Portland’s Mayor Katz and Commissioner Sten are spending a half-million dollars to study the city’s rights to acquire most of PGE’s assets, possibly through condemnation. The idea of a government takeover of PGE should die a quick death.

Here’s the most obvious question. A sour economy has pushed commissioners to seek cuts in city services. So, where is the council suddenly getting this extra half-million dollars?

Neither Katz nor Sten have been advocates for contracting out public services to improve their delivery, or to reduce their cost. However, with the proposed takeover, Sten has stated that the city government would contract with a private organization to run the utility. Here’s a better idea: just let private investors purchase and run PGE. Period.

We’ll momentarily put aside a discussion of the proper role of government in a free society, and condemnation as little short of theft. Let’s talk priorities.

To start, city commissioners should focus on the nearly $1 billion unfunded police and fire pension liability problem. In 1998 Katz proposed a solution that would’ve added $100 per year to most Portland homeowners’ property taxes-for at least 15 years. That problem grows more expensive through neglect.

City and other public officials should concentrate on government’s core functions and solve the problems they already have, not create more. The sale and purchase of PGE should be made by private investors in a competitive marketplace.

Kurt T. Weber is vice president of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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