Oregon’s needs are no secret

He said it on the radio, so you couldn’t see if Russ Walker managed to keep a straight face when he claimed last week that Gov. Ted Kulongoski has secretly found $500 million to avoid cuts in services if voters reject Measure 30 on Tuesday.

That’s nonsense, of course. And by now Oregonians ought to know better than to take such claims seriously. If this state’s painful experience over the past year has shown anything, it is that there are no shortcuts to paying for schools and other public services, no secret plans, no hundreds of millions to be found under couch cushions at the state Capitol.

Walker, the Oregon director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, is trotting around Oregon in the footsteps of Rep. Dan Doyle, R-Salem, who last year urged voters to reject Measure 28 tax increases because he had a “secret plan” to balance the state budget.

Doyle provided no such plan, of course, and the rest is history: Most Oregon school districts shut their doors early, tens of thousands of poor, elderly and disabled people lost services, and Oregon’s national reputation suffered incalculable damage.

Now it’s Walker blithely assuring Oregonians that they can safely reject the Measure 30 tax increases without hurting schools or people that depend on state services. Kulongoski has a secret plan, Walker says. An “unnamed source” in the Legislature told him.

Oh, please. Not again. This is the same destructive “heads I win, tails you lose” game that antitax groups keep playing with Oregon’s public services. If Kulongoski looks for ways to soften the impact of budget cuts, as he is doing now, they claim the state doesn’t really need the money. If he doesn’t, they accuse the governor of bad management and holding popular services hostage.

They’ve played the same game with schools, arguing on one hand that schools that based their budgets on the Legislature’s $5.2 billion allocation are guilty of poor planning and profligate spending. Then they point to schools that budgeted at a lower level, planning for the possible defeat of Measure 30, as evidence that schools don’t really need the money.

There are no secrets here. This is a hard vote, a tax increase at a difficult time for many families and businesses. Yet we strongly support the measure. Measure 30 is necessary to preserve the school year, maintain a health care safety net, keep a semblance of broad access to higher education and prevent further damage to Oregon’s national reputation as a place to live and do business.

Oregonians should vote “yes.”