As a small-business owner, I know that times have been tough in Oregon in the last few years. Our economy is struggling.

I have been a small-business owner in Oregon for nearly three decades. During this time, I have learned some lessons about what does and doesn't work to attract customers, increase sales and plan for the future.

In the Jan. 28 special election, we will make an important decision about Oregon's future. I am voting yes on Measure 28, and I urge all other taxpayers to do the same.

Recently, when talking about the school funding crisis, city Commissioner Jim Francesconi said, 'One negative story in The New York Times, and you can kiss our economic development strategy goodbye.'

That's because a growing economy depends on a quality educational system, secure public safety and strong human services. Oregon business leaders are worried that they will not be able to hire and retain quality employees because of our declining services.

As it turns out, the commissioner was prophetic that the national press would spread the word about Oregon's troubled times. The New York Times story has happened. So has a Time magazine article, an ABC television news story and many more.

It's no wonder: Portland schools have the shortest educational year in the nation. Tuition and student costs at our public universities are making it increasingly difficult for young people to afford college. Many offices in the Multnomah County Courthouse are open only four days a week. The critical safety nets that protect our most vulnerable citizens are fraying.

Our budget crisis has become a stain on Oregon's reputation. If allowed to continue, it will frustrate our attempts at economic recovery.

It is time for Oregonians to step up and break through the rhetoric of those who make their living as antigovernment agitators.

The reality is that state lawmakers have made deep cuts to the budget Ñ and most of the cuts are permanent. In fact, Oregon had the second-highest percentage reduction out of all the states in fiscal 2002. Last year, more than $700 million was cut from the budget, and more cuts may be on the way.

It is simply not true to say that the current budget shortfall can be replaced by smoke-and-mirrors budget cuts. There is no secret pot of money.

With Measure 28, we can prevent some of the scheduled cuts to education, public safety and human services. It is a temporary income surcharge of less than $9.50 per month for most Oregonians. Combined with the permanent cuts that have already been made, it is a reasonable approach.

We have a history in Oregon of protecting the basics during a recession. In 1982, under Republican Gov. Victor Atiyeh, the state was in the grips of a recession even more serious than the one we are in now. Then, we implemented a temporary surcharge to keep vital services intact and prevent the state from sliding into economic irrelevance.

It worked. We found our footing, the economy recovered, and the surcharge ended. The income tax rate has stayed the same ever since.

Measure 28 is not the final solution for Oregon's budget issues, but it is an important first step. It will buy us time so we can all work together for the future. That's why the Oregon Business Association has endorsed Measure 28, as have many other business owners and state leaders.

Measure 28 will help get Oregon back on track. Please join me in voting yes on Measure 28 this month.

Mike Roach owns Paloma Clothing, in the Hillsdale Shopping Center. He is a volunteer for the Yes on 28 Committee and lives in Southwest Portland.

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