Oregon is a big-hearted state willing to fund a quality education for our precious children, and lifesaving services for the poor, elderly and disabled. We have invested many years of hard work in developing programs to enhance our quality of life, and now we see our hopes, dreams and hard work crumbling before our very eyes.
On the other hand, state government has become increasingly intrusive and confiscatory, weighted down by a bloated Public Employee Retirement System, whose beneficiaries are virtually the only financial backers of a campaign to persuade us to raise our taxes.
Oregonians have a long history of stepping up to the plate to fund bond measures and levies to pay for schools, parks, fire, police and more.
As a reward for our faithfulness, we have seen cost overruns, a $12 billion PERS deficit, $1.4 billion lost in uncollected debt owed to the state, $700,000 wasted by the Oregon Lottery, horrifying waste uncovered in an audit of the Oregon Department of Education, the Department of Human Services faulted for managers awarding bonuses to themselves and awarding millions in contracts without required documentation and reporting requirements, $4.3 million of Oregon Health Plan funds going to those not eligible to receive them, and on and on.
Our government has failed to respect the personal sacrifices we have each made to fund these programs.
We must face the fact that our sluggish economy cannot produce the necessary revenues to fund state government as it exists today. The recession is causing taxpayer wages to shrink rapidly, yet state government is expected to grow about 5 percent Ñ even without the tax hike of Measure 28. This simply means that government is growing faster than our ability to pay for it.
We really have only one shot at preserving the programs we value without heaping additional burdens on our families and businesses, thereby weakening the fragile economy even further. We must cut government waste and institute zero-based budgeting and work to simplify, rather than expand, the state bureaucracy.
A yes vote on Measure 28 will only indicate to our legislators that we can solve any bureaucratic mismanagement by grabbing more money from taxpayers. A no vote, however, will force the political establishment to stand up and face the difficult task ahead.
Jason Williams is executive director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon.