Testimony on HJR 28 before the House Revenue Committee on using Lottery funding for the Oregon State Police

Steve BucksteinGood afternoon Chair Barnhart and members of the Committee. My name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank that promotes individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

Currently, less than two percent of the All Funds budget is spent on the State Police. We spend only about eight percent on all public safety, including the prisons and courts. We spend twice that much, 16%, just administrating state government.

The Preamble to the Oregon Constitution proclaims that “We the people of the State of Oregon to the end that Justice be established, order maintained, and liberty perpetuated, do ordain this Constitution.”

The fact that we are here debating how to fund what should be a core function of this government is troubling. I suggest this is happening because we have expanded the scope of government far beyond anything contemplated when our state constitution was drafted, and far beyond what is healthy for our state.

Because public safety is a core function, it should be funded first. But that said, I am here to argue against funding the State Police from lottery revenues.

I have nothing against gambling per se, but government should be neutral toward it, just like it should be neutral toward other forms of entertainment.

Adding state police to the lottery portfolio makes the lottery even more of a moral hazard than it is already. It would add one more advocacy group to those who openly or secretly applaud more gambling by our citizens.

Governor Kulongoski was right when he warned about our addiction to lottery revenue. That addiction will only grow if we add State Police to the list of programs dependent on dollars flowing into state gambling machines.

On many levels Oregonians would be better off if the lottery were sold, and the state’s virtual monopoly on gambling were ended.

This opposition to lottery funding does not mean that I approve of proposals to dedicate any specific percentage of the General Fund to the State Police either. Depending on economic and other factors, protecting Oregonians’ lives, liberty and property may take a greater or smaller portion of state revenues during any given biennium.

The State Police should make its case for how much that will cost just like any other agency. Once they’ve made their case in your eyes, they should get first call on whatever funds are available. Other programs should come second, or third, or, like the lottery, perhaps not at all.

Thank you for listening, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

Listen to the entire hearing. The audio is broken into two sections because the committee took a short recess. To hear my testimony you can fast forward to the end of the first 10:50-minute section. The file will then automatically load the second section, which lasts 1:38:57 hours. My testimony begins at 1:36:05.

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