The Statesman Journal has a counter on its website tallying the taxpayer burden of our legislators’ budgetary gridlock. With each day the Legislature is in session the cost continues to rise. Currently the cost is nearing $4.6 million. This is a staggering sum, but the true fiscal damage results from how much legislators continue to spend.
The governor’s revised budget shows that legislators will have over $11.03 billion to spend during the 2003-05 biennium. In other words, Oregon politicians will be spending $10,500 per minute or $175 per second for the next two years. That is a 143 percent spending increase from the 1989-91 budget of $4.53 billion.
Oregon leads the western states in total state and local revenue relative to personal income. According to a 2003 report by the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, the average Oregonian paid $6,130, or 22.1 percent of annual income to state and local government in 2000. To put this figure in perspective, the average Oregonian worked for nearly two and a half months to cover the burden of state and local government alone. Among myriad other purposes, these funds are used to support 166 state agencies, boards and commissions that include the Racing Commission and the Board of Denture Technology.
Oregon’s Legislators must be held accountable for their inability to be fiscally responsible and spend within their means. How can we reduce government spending? As Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman advised in a Wall Street Journal editorial, we can control politicians “the way parents control spendthrift children, cutting their allowance.”
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