ELECTION CRITERIA: A PLAN FOR OREGON
People who are dealing with the state's court system are having to make due with less in terms of personal contacts if they have a question. The $95,000 in cuts the Tenth Judicial District is dealing with is just one example of how Oregonians are going to see a change in how government is addressing the changed economic climate in Oregon. Other programs are undergoing similar cuts Â— reductions that will only grow more severe in the next few weeks if Gov. John Kitzhaber vetoes the Legislature's plan of borrowing from the future.
OREGON ISN'T alone in the struggles government services are facing. The recession has taken a bite out of income, and that in turn affects the revenue government has available for services. Courts, public safety, social services and education are being impacted nationwide. Most of us aren't feeling the crunch yet, but it's just a matter of time. Come fall, families with children in school will begin realizing that times have changed.
The Tenth Judicial District, which operates the courts in Union and Wallowa counties, has reduced its staff by one and cut the hours of two other employees. The OSU Extension Service will be cutting back services about 50 percent. Some school districts in our area have reduced staff and programs. Some districts in the state are cutting their athletic budgets. State universities are paring staff and searching for ways to save money. Community colleges are doing the same.
PEOPLE WHO HAVE been saying that government is too fat are going to see what a more lean government is all about. But unless they have kids in school or college, elderly parents who receive some kind of assistance, or they need services from a state agency, they might assume that all is well and government is making due with less. Anyone affected by the cuts is likely to think otherwise.
What lies ahead for state services and schools isn't going to be pretty. Oregon, like many states and many families, is suffering from the reality of recession and a hamstrung tax structure.
If ever there was a case for a rainy day fund, this recession is it. The next Legislature needs to address Oregon's inability to weather the highs and lows of the economy. When times are good, we can't just spend every dollar that becomes available. We have to save. When times are bad, we can't expect students, seniors, the poor or public safety to shoulder the burden because of our lack of planning.
FOR TOO LONG OREGON'S elected officials have spoken of the need for a rainy day fund. But ongoing lip service has gotten us to where we are today. The Legislature hasn't seen fit to provide one.
Oregon needs a plan for the future. And it needs people who are willing to take a political risk to provide one.