'The defeat of Ballot Measure 30 settles for now the debate over higher taxes vs. preserving services.

'The voters' decision, however, does not relieve the governor, state agency heads, key legislators and local agencies from their duty to protect Oregonians from across-the-board cutbacks in vital areas such as health care and public safety.

'The same people who believe Oregon needs a more stable system of financing public services ought to be the first to insist that state leaders examine spending priorities closely as they prepare for another round of cutbacks.

'Measure 30's defeat triggers $545 million in budget reductions for schools, public safety and health care. Those broad numbers are set in stone, but within each category, the governor and Legislative Emergency Board also have flexibility. Cuts to K-12 schools and community colleges will be significant and are lamentable, but cuts to health care and public safety are a different matter.

'State leaders should allocate dollars within agency budgets to ensure that sick people's lives are not placed in danger and that prisoners remain in jail. Priorities ought to include providing medications and treatment to people already on the Oregon Health Plan, restoring funding to the State Police crime lab and shoring up Community Corrections.

'These choices won't be easy. To take care of those who depend on the health plan, state officials may have to delay a planned expansion of the plan. That means many uninsured Oregonians will continue to depend on emergency rooms and indigent care to protect their health.

'We tend to agree with Gov. Ted Kulongoski and others who say that the budget adjustments can be accomplished without a special legislative session.

'Government officials also should resist succumbing to the temptation to say that voters must witness the worst of the cutbacks they enacted. That type of thinking, however, would only widen the credibility gap that caused this measure to be defeated in the first place.'

Ñ An editorial published Feb. 21 in the Beaverton Valley Times

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