With April Fool’s Day just passed, Governor Kulongoski is poised to break his pledge to make Oregon state government live within its means. The April 13 Oregonian headline reports, “Kulongoski, long against tax increase, says it appears inevitable.” The governor should keep his pledge to work on Oregon’s spending problem. That would be leadership.
The governor must hold legislators’ feet in the fire and fix the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). Local governments and schools (read taxpayers) are drowning under the burden of PERS, and the burden will worsen when the economy improves. If the governor capitulates to higher taxes, he loses the best stick he has to fix this problem. And, Oregonians who remain in the state will likely be saddled with even higher taxes long down the road.
There are numerous opportunities to reduce state spending. Eliminate corporate welfare. Also, eliminate the Oregon Economic Development Department. Economic development is a function of business and venture capitalists, not government.
The governor should continue to get state government out of places it shouldn’t be, for example, insurance. Cascade Policy Institute’s recent report advocates privatizing SAIF, the state agency that sells worker’s compensation insurance. Oregon’s Labor Commissioner agrees; he said, “I think Cascade Policy is right on target.”
During the gubernatorial campaign candidate Kulongoski remarked, had he been governor when the state’s budgetary problems first came to light, he would have called Cascade Policy Institute and similar groups to discuss solutions. Our advice to him today: keep a stern focus on PERS and holdfast to your pledge.
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