OK, so we figure we can tolerate more felons on the loose, fewer cops to patrol the state's highways, larger classes in our schools, shorter school years and fewer jobs as we cut prisons, schools and public safety.

Wait, there's more.

There should be higher tuition to attend our state's colleges and universities, which should reduce the number of those attending in Oregon. After all, there are other options.

We also could use a leaner juvenile justice system, fewer corrections officers and less county law enforcement.

Not important.

Oh, and let's not forget the seniors, the disabled and those working poor and their children who utilize the Oregon Health Plan.

They don't need the money that's already been scheduled for cuts that would pay for the disabled in group homes, the expense of seniors in assisted living facilities and the salaries of in-home care workers for seniors and people with disabilities.

That about cover it?

No, we really don't want to do that.

But that's what's right around the corner if we believe "the polls" that have been circulated over the past several weeks.

All these areas will be cut, no ifs or maybes. The past legislative session OK'd those decreases that will take effect Jan. 29 if Measure 28 fails.

Voters can cancel those cuts by approving the measure, which likely would mean a tax increase of about $9 a month for most families, according to some estimates. Some could pay a little more, others a little less.

But we don't want to raise our taxes either, we can't afford it.

After all, we all know the economy isn't the best.

But can we afford the alternatives, because aren't we indirectly voting ourselves a tax hike if we say no in January?

Here's what will happen if the above comes true.

Businesses and industries won't locate here.

Think not or don't care?

Talk with any of the volunteer economic development groups in our counties. Spend some time with economic recruiters for the city and state.

Managers and owners of these prospective companies can locate their firms a lot of places.

States and cities offer a variety of inducements, from breaks on taxes, to providing or at least helping provide infrastructure - things like water, sewer, roads, land and in some cases buildings.

The packages can be pretty enticing. But it's hugely competitive.

Often decisions on where to locate plants come down to quality of life, available work force, and educational quality and access, not only in kindergarten through 12th grade but through higher education at the junior college, vocational or university levels.

An educational system that is reeling from oversized classrooms, poor teacher and administrator morale, longer and fewer school days and/or shorter school years and less educated students who will find it tougher to compete and don't bring the basic skills needed to the work force, isn't very attractive.

Already, employers struggle with the quality of those job applicants who lack the necessary work ethic, attitude and basic knowledge they need.

Equally unappealing to these firms is the proposition where convicted offenders are released because there's no place to put them.

Do that at the same time that you reduce the state highway patrol force, which impacts not just coverage for responding to crime but time in responding to road accidents involving someone you know.

Courts will operate on a priority basis and those "unimportant" issues such as property disputes and petty theft may not be heard, or at best, heard months later.

One knock on our court system now is that it takes forever to get resolution.

This certainly isn't going to improve that.

So the result is fewer businesses and industries will locate here, instead choosing to go elsewhere, picking a state with a more inviting economic and social picture.

But it's not just new firms that will be affected.

Existing employers will have to re-examine their location and be responsive to their employees' needs and demands.

The exodus could begin.

Both of those will produce a smaller tax base - fewer firms paying less taxes, bringing on additional rounds of stress on the public service sector and forcing the likelihood of yet more taxes in the private sector to simply maintain the basics.

It's a decidedly downward spiral and one that doesn't offer much room for hope.

Yes, we must cut waste and demand efficiency and accountability from those we elect and from those who serve us.

But we've been there, done that.

There indeed may be more streamlining that could be accomplished, and while we don't need to abandon those efforts, we also don't need to penalize everyone else during the interim.

And we also must realize that at a certain point, we reach the limit of what we can do with what we're paying in.

We've reached that point.

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