The state of Oregon is facing another budget crisis. This week state economist Tom Potiowsky released an economic forecast that reports tax collections coming in half a billion dollars less than expected. Gov. Ted Kulongoski immediately called for state agencies to cut their department budgets by nine percent.
Some are calling for a special legislative session to address the shortfall. Others say that a special session would quickly devolve into a partisan screaming match. And all this in an election year when few candidates want to go on the record with specific ideas or goals.
The residents of Oregon have been buffeted enough by both sides on spending issues. The time is long past for leadership and it doesn’t matter where it comes from: the governor or the legislature.
It is said that elections have consequences. That is very true in Oregon today. One party is in control after years of being in the legislative minority. It is human nature to throw open the cupboard to reward your friends and allies; every victorious politicial party does it. To the victor go the spoils.
In an economic climate that features millons and milllions of dollars worth of budget cuts that affect real people throughout the state, there aren’t many spoils to go around. And yet the victors still want their booty.
Until the state of Oregon can pull itself out of its recession, create new jobs and stabilize revenue sources, we will be facing these budget shortfall situations for years to come. The public will be shocked when economists cite lower-than-expected revenues; state employees will decry that the burden of balancing of the budget lands on their shoulders; social service groups will demand that no cuts be made in their field. Further cuts in education budgets comes at the same time as we find out that less than 70 percent of our high school students graduate on time or at all.
It has been said that every problem has been solved—somewhere. We can find solutions to Oregon’s budget and revenue problems, if we look elsewhere. Oregon needs the political will and the political leadership to lead the state out of this budgetary wilderness and set us on the right and fair path again. We can only hope that rather than giving either side a mandate, voters in the general election will send a clear message—don’t spoil your victory by grabbing more than your share.