Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Election Rant

Oregon has what is known as the "Initiative System." Any group with an axe to grind and enough signatures on a petition can get a measure put on the ballot. If it passes, it becomes law. Things like the anti-gay legislation in Springfield and Canby became law in this way, when voters who thought the measures hateful but frivolous DIDN’T vote, and the local homophobes DID. Once in a while, something worthwhile will come out of this process, like Oregon’s ground-breaking "Right-to-Die" law. The system is also used by the taxpayers to micro-manage Oregon’s tax system. Yesterday’s election was an embarrassing example of this.

Oregon suffered in the eighties. The major timber companies had cut down all the trees they could reach, and left in droves to find greener pastures. We scrambled for living wage jobs. Eventually, we hitched our wagon to the high-tech train, which gave us a helluva ride through the nineties. But when high-tech tanked a couple of years ago, we went with it.

During the high-flying days of the high-tech boom, the state of Oregon spent like drunken sailors. They instituted programs, like the Oregon Health Plan, that were compassionate, admirable, and expensive. Never gave a moment’s thought to what would happen if the money suddenly went away. And, here’s the clincher. In Oregon, if the state collects more money than it needs, it gives it back. This is called the "kicker." The checks go out right before Christmas, so we can all buy a couple hundred dollars more worth of things we don’t need. I would get the check, and think, Why don’t they just put this away somewhere for a rainy day?

It’s raining now. The legislature worked months past their adjournment date last fall to hammer out a package that would balance the fat budget. They came up with a "tax surcharge," at a cost to the average taxpayer of about $100 a year…half the money given back with those stupid "kicker" checks. But…welcome to the "Initiative System." As the ink dried on the legislature’s hard-won bi-partisan agreement, they KNEW it was doomed.

So, the Oregon Health Plan, not to mention schools, Medicaid, police, and other vital services, get screwed...because Oregon voters are too stingy to give up $100 a year they might spend on five cases of beer. And because our legislature is too stupid to figure out that the gravy train occasionally runs out of gas.


  1. This is just insanity.

  2. What happens when people get elected? Do their brains shut down?

  3. I hear ya. California is also a 'gov't-by-initiative' state, & it results in travesty, as wealthy corps. & other special interest groups pay lobbyists to write & place initiatives on the ballots, which th uninformed electorate vote in favor of as long as they contain the phrase "will NOT raise taxes." Homophobes, misers and celebrity hounds ALWAYS vote in CA ~ so we endure anti-gay marriage legislation, tax rebates instead of state services &, of course ~ Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger! ... :P

  4. I'm so fed up w/ anything to do with politics, the government, that I usually TUNE OUT when a topic turns to that. However, with YOUR writing, I was with you til "run out of gas" and that's a feather in your cap, as it were. You are a great, straight-shooter of a writer and I will be tuning in regularly!

    And thanks for the poly sci ed today, it was painless! I agree, no KICKER. Save it.

    ~ Karyn

  5. OH, Lord,so sorry about the Oregon Health plan gone awry. It's a shame that people can't get their priorities straight..