Gathering for their state convention, Oregon Republicans came out this weekend in favor of a tough new spending limit on government — a proposition that’s likely to be put before Oregon voters this fall.
Support was nearly unanimous for limiting state spending to the percentage change in inflation plus the percentage change in population growth. State budget experts say it would reduce state spending by $1.4 billion in the next two-year budget.
“Government has got to get control of its spending,” said Lee Golder, a GOP delegate from North Bend who strongly backs the spending limit.
Hundreds of the party faithful descended on this college town to adopt a party platform, take part in campaign training sessions and hear a keynote address Saturday night from the party’s gubernatorial nominee, Portland lawyer Ron Saxton.
State elections officials are expected to announce on Monday whether the spending limit initiative drew enough petition signatures to win a spot on the November ballot.
If the spending limit does qualify, it will touch off what’s expected to be a high-spending campaign battle between anti-tax activists who want to restrict government spending and those who say such a limit would put schools and important social services at risk.
This weekend’s GOP vote in favor of the spending limit creates a clear contrast between the state’s Republicans and the Oregon Democratic Party, which adopted an anti-spending limit position at the party’s state convention in June.
Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who’s seeking re-election, also has called the spending limit “terrible public policy” that would hurt schools, law enforcement and other vital services.
One of the leading backers of the spending limit, Russ Walker of FreedomWorks, on Saturday called those assertions “scare tactics.” He also said the Republican Party’s endorsement would help build support for a new spending limit for the fall campaign.
“The average guy knows that government is not spending his tax dollars wisely,” said Walker, who was in Eugene for the GOP convention.
Meanwhile, Republicans went on record against an “open primary” initiative that is being sponsored by two former Oregon secretaries of state — Democrat Phil Keisling and Republican Norma Paulus.
The initiative would require candidates to run in a single primary, with the two top finishers, regardless of party affiliation, advancing to the November general election.
Backers of the idea say it would bring more independent voters into the process and cut down on excessive partisanship in Oregon politics.
But Republicans said that nonpartisan primary elections would be less interesting to voters and draw smaller voter turnouts.
“It neuters the process. It takes away its vibrancy,” Oregon Republican Chairman Vance Day said Saturday.