(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Larry Galizio, D-Tigard, is the state representative for House District 35.)
'Irrational exuberance' was Alan Greenspan's iconic phrase capturing the prevailing sentiment of the so-called 'dot.com' era of the late 1990s.
Unfortunately, the former Federal Reserve chairman's watchwords accurately convey the view of many going into the 2007 legislative session. With some $1.2 billion set to return to taxpayers in the form of the personal kicker later this year, visions of massive investments in education, human services and public safety danced in Oregonians' heads.
While such visions are understandable, the long-term sustainability of Oregon's economy necessitates fiscal discipline and a clear eyed, pragmatic approach to the 2007-'09 state budget.
From my seat as chairman of the Joint Ways and Means Education Subcommittee, it has become increasingly clear that beneath the rosy economic picture lie some thorny issues with which we must contend. Ongoing debt service, the volatility of Oregon's tax system, Measure 37 and a host of other challenges both known and unknown require a sober, realistic assessment of our short and long-term prospects.
Fortunately, the budget principles directing the deliberations of the Ways and Means Committee reflect a keen understanding of the volatile nature of the state's economy. State agencies have been charged with documenting their overall strategic approach and the specific means by which they will: secure continuous improvement; prioritize programs and services; achieve meaningful outcomes; and employ performance measures aimed at quality and efficiency.
Although Oregon's recent economic strength does allow us to make some much-needed investments in education, human services and public safety, the long-term sustainability of our institutions demand not only a rainy-day fund for future downturns but prudent decisions today so that we avoid the fate of so many 'dot.com' companies and their investors.
Call it 'rational vigilance.'