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Oregon needs reforms, not a hike in taxes

Arguments for Measure 28 and responses to each:

'Defeat of Measure 28 will cause deep decreases in state spending.'

State spending grows either way. In reality, if Measure 28 passes, state spending will grow 8 percent from the last budget. If it fails, spending will grow 5 percent.

Worse yet, if 28 passes, it will cause Gov. Kulongoski's new 2003-05 balanced budget to become unbalanced Ñ because Measure 28 would preserve $1.1 billion in additional spending but raise only $400 million, leaving a $700 million shortfall.

'Measure 28 is an 'economic stimulus plan.' '

No, it isn't. Economic stimulus comes from tax cuts, not government-spending growth and not from tax increases. Measure 28 just perpetuates the cycle of irresponsible overspending by state government.

'In the last big recession, we raised taxes and the result was prosperity.'

This story about the early '80s recession claims that an Oregon income tax surcharge that was passed then somehow caused the Reagan economic boom of the 1980s. The reality is that the income tax increase made Oregon's recovery later and weaker than it would otherwise have been. Similarly, the excessive growth in state spending all through the 1990s caused Oregon's job-creation rate in that boom time to be among the lowest of the 50 states.

'Measure 28's cuts are unchangeable.'

No. The cuts generally associated with Measure 28 are not part of Measure 28 at all Ñ they are part of a package of cuts enacted by the last Legislature. Those cuts can easily be changed by the current Legislature, and they will be when Measure 28 is defeated. The governor already has pledged that no prisons will be closed, despite pro-28 advocates claiming that several prisons will be closed.

'Support for Measure 28 means support for schools.'

No. Support of or opposition to Measure 28 has nothing to do with supporting schools. It would be easy to hold schools harmless from any effects of a Measure 28 defeat. All Libertarian budgets of the last several years have called for large reductions in state spending but full support for schools. This is not hard to do.

'That's all there is to say.'

No, it isn't. There's a critical untold story Ñ like Sherlock Holmes' dog that didn't bark Ñ that needs attention. Where are the government plans to save money by something other than program cuts? Where are the penny-pinching economies? Where is the re-examination of budget items to ask if the state should even be doing this or that thing in the first place? Where are the operational benchmarks against more efficient state government agencies, such as those in Wisconsin, New Mexico and Nevada?

The state's car pool should be privately managed via competitive bid. The state's monopoly on wholesale liquor distribution should be ended. Those two decisions would save tens of millions of dollars and represent functions that should have been privatized or ended years ago.

Where are the pro-28 lobbyists on this? Why aren't they demanding these reforms, with the saved money directed to K-12 education? This deafening silence tells us that the pro-28 apologists don't have any real interest in saving taxpayers money, or in making government more efficient, or in improving accountability and transparency and trust.

The real agenda behind the pro-28 side is to keep the taxpayers uninformed and panicky, and thus willing to raise taxes again and again.

Thomas Cox, 38, was the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2002. A resident of Hillsboro, he is married, with two children, and works for IBM as a management consultant.