Sign here for lousy schools

Oregon is nothing more than an inviting place to play to the national antitax activists bankrolling an effort to put a spending limit on the ballot in 2006.

FreedomWorks, the national group leading the spending limit campaign, looks at Oregon and sees an opportunity to exploit voter distrust and use the state’s y’all-come initiative process to push forward another so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or Tabor, law.

It doesn’t matter to FreedomWorks that Oregon already has below-average spending on schools and that its combined state and local tax burden is among the 10 lowest in the nation. The national activists don’t care that this state provides less public support for its universities than almost any other in the nation. It’s nothing to them that Oregon now has only half the state police troopers it had 25 years ago.

The facts don’t matter, only the philosophy does. FreedomWorks is sending signature-gatherers around Oregon because it is eager to sell its small, smaller, smallest government ideology anywhere and everywhere. So here they come with their clipboards, seductive ballot titles and all-too-easy answers. Cut taxes, stop big-government waste, make ’em live within their means, why not? Where do we sign?

Of course it’s not that simple. Surely by now Oregonians have learned the hazards of using bumper sticker promises to chart the future of their state.

Before you sign your name to a Tabor initiative in Oregon, think about what it would it do to the state’s public school system, universities, public safety and health care. You don’t have to guess. Look at Colorado, once the pride and joy of the Tabor movement, where a Republican and former strong supporter of Tabor limits, Gov. Bill Owens, is now pleading with voters to relax the limits there and allow the state to fund critical services such as road and bridge repairs, schools and health care.

In Colorado, the graduation rate is declining and more school buildings are falling into disrepair. Higher education funding has slipped to 47th in the nation. The state ranks 48th in access to prenatal care, and the percentage of low-birthweight babies is rising. The ratio of prison inmates to guards has skyrocketed; so has the number of assaults on prison staff.

The FreedomWorks’ signature gatherers smiling and tugging at your sleeve will tell you their initiative is just about limiting “big government.” In fact, it is about consigning Oregon, now and in the future, to subpar schools, highways, police and other essential services. Don’t give them your signature.