Proposed spending limit could cap states future by hurting children
The future of the State of Oregon and our various communities is literally going to be determined at the ballot box this year. It is important that we educate ourselves on the issues and the candidates and then vote for the future we want.
I caution you to beware of how you cast your ballot when you vote this November.
While I am a member of the Forest Grove School Board, these thoughts are mine, not policy of the board.
Measure 41, which would reduce state income tax bills, on the surface looks like a common sense issue. However, if approved, it will take effect starting Jan. 1, 2007.
That date is inside of the current state budget which goes through June 30, 2007. It may impact the ability to fund all of the state's programs for the balance of this fiscal year.
Since our schools are a part of the state budget, it may also affect our school district's ability to pay for our current budget in the last half of this school year.
Measure 48 would amend Oregon's Constitution to impose a state spending limit. While not likely to devastate the first biennium's budget, if passed will cause budget disparities to grow in successive budgets.
On first examination, one may think that it could be good to tie budgets to the Consumer Price Index and to population growth. But remember much of the services that are purchased by the state are not in line with the CPI.
These are services such as health care, prisons, law enforcement, and social services.
Some of these services are mandated, and thus have to be funded. Funding the mandated programs will take additional funds away from non-mandated programs, progressively crippling them more with each succeeding budget.
Additionally, most of our population growth is in our youth, they need to be educated, a costly item.
While educational costs may be more closely related to the CPI, the higher population growth in the younger age groups makes educational costs escalate substantially faster than provided by this formula.
Don't forget, Baby Boomers are reaching the age where they need more services. Will the services they need cease to exist?
This amendment was first passed in Colorado and devastated that state. Since Measure 48, if passed, becomes a part the constitution, repeal would be very difficult.
Coloradoans have suspended it for five years in an attempt restore some sense to their budget. While the bill does provide that excess funds cannot be spent, and they can be put in a rainy day fund, it does not create such a fund.
If a rainy day fund were created by the Legislature, the rainy day fund could only expend within the spending limits of the amendment, not to address a specific need.
While many in Colorado did receive small refund checks, these refunds did not come close to offsetting the additional expenditures required of many.
Schools were greatly impacted; they could not buy materials, texts, make copies, and fund extracurricular activity including athletics.
Children, in some districts, even wore heavy coats in the classrooms, as their district struggled to save money by reducing heating costs. This amendment is especially devastating to families of school-age children.
Look hard at the candidates you choose. Look at their promises. Are their promises ones they actually have the power to carry out, or are they empty promises to get them elected and then discarded after they are in office?
A large part of our future is in the education of our youth; this is the largest and most important item in Oregon's budget and therefore always seems to be under attack. About 85 percent of the education budget is spent on staff and on transportation.
Across the state our classroom sizes have been much larger than optimum. To reduce classroom size we need more teaching staff and more classroom space, this is not accomplished by reducing the funding.
We currently spend about as much to educate one child from K-12 as the federal penal system spends to incarcerate one prisoner for one year.
Wouldn't we be much better off educating our children to become useful citizens, rather than incarcerating them later?
We need candidates that realize the value of education and strive to improve it in positive ways, rather than attack and cripple it even more.
Isn't it possible that additional funding could actually be obtained by sun-setting some special-interest laws rather than over-taxing the average citizen?
Fred Marble lives in Forest Grove.
Northwest Oregon Conference