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Salem, OR – Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s decision to sign a state budget that does not increase taxes on Oregonians is a testament to real grassroots power. Beginning in December 2001 and continuing throughout the special legislative session, Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) demanded that the governor and legislature find ways to shore up the budget deficit without establishing new taxes.
p>Citizen Activism – More than sixty CSE activists attended a hearing chaired by the governor to express their firm opposition to tax hikes. Ten activists testified stating that the state needs to cut spending, control its costs, and refrain from enacting any new tax increases. Oregon CSE Director Russ Walker testified before the governor and listed various policy options that the state could use to address the budget deficit, such as cutting state spending across the board, eliminating redundant state government programs, and privatizing some government programs rather than raising taxes on Oregonians. Days later, our activists testified before the Senate Revenue Committee. Dan Kohler, Chris Mickelson, and Rex Daines, demanded fiscal restraint and no new taxes. When one of the peeved legislators asked Daines what to do about the budget, Daines responded that OR CSE submitted specific recommendations to address the funds shortage. Moreover, Daines stated that it was legislators’ job to find a solution, because that’s what they were elected to do.
|OR CSE activists on the capitol before attending Gov. Kitzhaber’s |
hearing on taxes
The Larger Battle Against Taxes – From the moment the state reported that it would run a deficit in 2003, CSE set out to educate and mobilize activists and the public on the need for a comprehensive plan to address the issue. In December, Walker distributed a plan to each legislator detailing ways the state could alleviate the crisis and do much to prevent another in the future. He called for cutting taxes to spur economic growth; eliminating regulations that prohibit investment and innovation; privatizing many government services and cutting wasteful spending. Walker’s opinion editorial “A Better Way to Balance the Budget,” which ran in the Oregonian On-line, discussed the major themes Walker proposed to the legislature. To get the message out to the general public, Oregon CSE sponsored radio advertisements calling on the legislature and the governor to create better solutions to address the financial shortfall rather than simply raising taxes on Oregonians.
A Win for CSE and Oregonians – With the help of Oregon CSE, Governor Kitzhaber finally signed a budget that does not increase taxes.