Coalition launches drive for new state budget process

SALEM — A coalition of Libertarians, tax activists and a pair of Republican legislators kicked off an effort Thursday to make the state budget process more transparent to taxpayers and to limit spending to actual revenue.

The key, said Tom Cox, a Libertarian Party House candidate and former state party chairman, is a one-page budget to be passed by the House — with spending details to come later.

According to the New Budget Coalition’s proposal, the House also would require that every spending bill fit within the confines of the summary budget, or it could not come up for a vote.

The focus, Cox said, “would be on the budget process rather than on budget numbers.”

Joined by other Libertarian candidates and Sen. Gary George, R-Newberg, and Rep. Jeff Kropf, R-Sublimity, Cox said that candidates from all parties are invited to support the coalition’s proposal and that candidates who do would support one another.

Although George and Kropf vigorously supported the coalition’s ideas, they might not expect much GOP support.

House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, declined to comment on the matter Thursday. In general, Republican leaders see Libertarians as a threat to Republican goals, with Kevin Mannix, the Oregon Republican Party chairman, recently telling GOP members to “stop paying any attention” to Libertarian candidates.

Troy Nichols, who runs Majority 2004, the Republican House election campaign, saw little good in Republicans’ joining the coalition as a means of campaigning — not when 21 Libertarians are running for House seats — even if the plan has some good points.

He advised Republican candidates, “Don’t give Libertarians a platform when they are overtly trying to harm our majority” in the House.

Republicans hold a 35-25 advantage over Democrats.

George, in the Senate, and Kropf, in the House, do not have Libertarian opposition.

Others taking part in the coalition include Jason Williams of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, and Russ Walker of FreedomWorks/Oregon, formerly known as Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Some aspects of the proposal are similar to a budgeting approach put forth by Gov. Ted Kulongoski last month.

Theresa McHugh, the governor’s chief budget adviser, said the governor’s plan includes matching available revenues to spending on programs that do the best job of meeting specific goals in areas such as education, public safety and health care.

Cox said the coalition wants to pay first for public safety and education while leaving “the expedient” programs for last.

Dan Hortsch: 503-221-8223; danhortsch@news.oregonian.com

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