OREGON: THINGS ARE DIFFERENT HERE
Oregonians have spoken. With the resounding defeat of Measure 28 on Tuesday, Oregonians said they want government to live with the revenue it has available. An extra $3, $5 or $10 a month in income taxes depending on income is more than a solid majority Oregonians are willing to pay. The sorrow in Measure 28's defeat is that some Oregonians will have to endure the consequences that the revenue shortfall will bring.
THE FACE OF education, public safety and health services that Oregonians have become familiar with is due to change. Rescue attempts might be made, but the fact remains that government in Oregon as we've come to know it is in for some serious scaling back.
The battle once again shifts to the Legislature, where Republicans are saying an "emergency care package'' might be formulated to reduce the impacts of the cuts to our most vulnerable populations. Democrats and the governor are saying that Measure 28 was the care package, and that the cuts that were announced for the remainder of the biennium have to be made because the legislative assembly must address the 2003-05 biennial budget. Revisiting the cuts would be a waste of time.
OREGONIANS have to face up to the reality of the state's revenue shortfall. The Oregon State Police will be laying off 129 troopers and cutting crime lab services beginning Saturday. Counties such as Multnomah have begun releasing jail inmates and laying off deputies. Schools are laying off teachers and other staff members and shortening the school year. Alcohol and drug treatment services and programs for senior services are being whittled.
The projected cuts weren't a smoke screen. Cutting back is necessary and real people will be impacted by a reduction in services because Oregonians have spared themselves the equivalent of a couple of lattes or a few video rentals a month.
Perhaps what spoke as loudly as anything in Tuesday's election is the sorry state of Oregon's economy, which caused the shortfall. When people have lost jobs, or live in fear of losing their jobs, the idea of raising taxes is a difficult concept to support. Surely Oregonians voted with their pocketbooks and not their hearts.
WHAT WILL HAVE to be determined in the days and months ahead is whether Oregon, by rejecting the income tax surcharge, did more to help or hinder the state's economy. Will the money citizens preserved for themselves outweigh the reduction in services and jobs caused by the measure's defeat? Only time will tell.
A struggling economy and voters unwilling to bail out the state have created a very different Oregon. The state will have to adapt. Oregonians' message came through loud and clear.