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Is state budget shortfall a tragedy or a travesty?

FACE-OFF • Sheila Hamilton thinks problems put education at risk; Lars Larson says they're a reality check

Gov. John Kitzhaber is right when he blames the decisions of the last 10 years for landing Oregon in its current budget troubles.

Let's see É who has been in charge for most of the last decade, proposing budgets that propelled the growth of state government at double-digit rates? That's right, Dr. John Tax-lover, described by the Cato Institute as one of the 'most fiscally reckless governors' in America.

Sheila concludes that we can't fix the budget with cuts. Try this math for size. Oregon's general fund budget Ñ written last summer when the nation was already clearly on a path to recession Ñ grew 17 percent.

Let's suppose you cut the entire $830 million in overspending and then factor in population growth and inflation. What's left? A state budget that's still 3 percent bigger than the last budget. Many Oregon family budgets won't see that kind of growth É and you have to remember, they're paying the bill for state government. Why should the budget for state government grow faster than those who fund it?

Think Oregon education is bare bones? Take Portland, for example: Average total spending per student is in excess of $10,000. The city has hundreds of vacant, unneeded classrooms. Average teacher pay Ñ at $44,000 per year Ñ is a full 10 percent higher than in Washington state.

Liberals love to point to Oregon's relatively low 'tax' ranking of 46th in the country. I think that's interesting, but what's far more interesting is the state's ranking by the 2000 census as the eighth-highest spending state in the country.

Face it: Oregon has figured out how to squeeze cash out of its citizens through user fees. Can any of those who advocate increasing taxes in the state with the highest unemployment in the country tell me why it costs more to run government here than in 42 other states?

Kitzhaber had four terms as Senate president and two terms in Mahonia Hall. The blue jeans and boots certainly made a fashion statement, but judging by the final result, I'd say this cowboy is all hat and no cattle.

Lars Larson is the host of a talk show on KXL (750 AM) that runs from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..