It's time to think outside the box. Actually, it's well past time.

Everyone knows Oregon has a dollar problem. Some describe it as a spending issue, others a funding issue. Regardless, it comes down to setting our priorities on what we think government at the state level should provide.

Does government have an obligation to take care of people and if so how far does that obligation go?

Critical to this state's future economic health are the two linchpin issues - the Oregon Health Plan and the Public Employees Retirement System. Both are huge guzzlers of public funds, otherwise known as taxpayer dollars.

New Gov. Ted Kulongoski and this Legislature must tackle these two issues and provide needed reform that makes common sense. But while our state's lawmakers are at it, they need to examine every area of state government in Salem. Nothing should be sacred.

From the Department of Education to the Transportation Department, every agency should be reviewed. Boards and commissions must be held accountable as well.

State mandates must be reviewed and justified. Hard questions must be asked. Is this department really needed? What benefits does it provide? Is it necessary to have this level of staffing? Is every expense justifiable and necessary? Does this program or mandate pay for itself - either in results or benefits? Can this be combined or merged with another department or program?

These are some of the type of questions the private sector has to answer every day. Failure to constantly assess and adequately address these questions can result in the demise of the business.

The public looks to the governor and the Legislature to make the right choices and expects those choices to result in wise spending. Yet as the new power structure prepared to take its place in Salem at the first of the year, lawmakers of both parties agreed that there was a deep distrust in government.

The way to earn that trust back is to provide this kind of scrutiny of government itself and to do so in an open, public manner.

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