In June of 1993 Cascade Policy Institute published the report Seven Principles of State Budget Reform. Ironically the opening sentence asked, “Why is there another fiscal crisis in Oregon?”
The current so-called budget crisis is not an accident: It was created by the Oregon legislature during the 2001 session. Legislators approved new programs such as the Oregon Cultural Trust and Children’s Plan, and increased spending. This they did with full knowledge that revenue would be significantly down.
Elected officials in Salem are entrusted with a fiduciary responsibility. A majority of them have failed in that capacity. Their irresponsible actions are equivalent to those of corporate executives whose misdeeds mislead employees, stockholders, and investors. At least in the private sector you can sever your relationship with such an organization and seek redress if necessary. Government forces your continued support.
Oregonians are not alone. In his July 15 Slate column, “Pity the Poor, Penniless Governors,” Jack Shafer counts 45 states facing the same predicament. You would think the lesson would be learned, but as Shafer reports, “Even now, in comparatively bad times, [state governments] are increasing their budgets in real terms.”
Substantial shortfalls are projected for Oregon’s next two state budget cycles. This is no secret. Thus, the question: Will enough of our public officials act in accordance with their fiduciary responsibilities, or will they continue to enlarge government and overspend? More importantly we should ask, even if we can afford it, should government provide it?
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