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Children across Oregon will wake up on Christmas morning this year to find an extra book in their stocking and an unexpected game under the tree.
Recent college graduates, struggling to make ends meet in their new jobs while paying off student loans, will be able to pay down some credit card debt instead of adding to it. Some families who normally would only be able to afford a small turkey for their holiday dinner can splurge and treat themselves to a ham.
For many Oregonians, this holiday season is going to be different, and they have the Oregon kicker check to thank for it. But beware -- every Christmas has a Grinch.
The Legislature created the kicker in 1979 and voters elevated it to the Oregon Constitution in 2000. Since then, whenever state government collects 2 percent more money than it needs to pay the bills, the excess ends up back where it started -- in the taxpayers' pockets.
Since it began, the kicker has returned $2.6 billion back to hardworking Oregon families. This year, the average Oregonian can expect a check of more than $600.
The kicker has proved successful in giving back to taxpayers what is theirs and keeping government from spending more than it should. Those are values that Oregonians believe are worth protecting.
However, despite its popularity and success, the kicker is never safe. Politicians in Salem are fond of playing the Grinch and the kicker is a favorite pot of gold for someone's pet project. This year is no different. Several Salem politicians with hearts "two sizes too small" are eyeing the kicker with greedy eyes.
They would love nothing better than to steal the kicker for more govern-ment programs and pork.
The chair of the Senate Revenue Committee, Ginny Burdick, recently called the kicker "dumb," and others like Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Speaker Jeff Merkley have lent their voices to hers. Together, they are dedicated to seeing the kicker's demise.
To them, the kicker is just money they could be spending on things like pay increases for government bureaucrats and new parking garages. But to Oregon families, it is a few extra Christmas gifts, another step toward becoming debt-free and a little extra holiday cheer.
The kicker is an Oregon hallmark that is worth protecting. Excess taxpayer dollars are best spent by the people who earned them in the first place, not by Salem politicians.
More information about the kicker and which partisan legislators would like to play Grinch is available at www.kickerfacts.com.
Russ Walker is the northwest director of FreedomWorks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.