With January fast approaching, and with it the vote on Ballot Measure 28, I would like to discuss our state's budget situation just to stir some thought about our state's future.
Every day I read a newspaper or watch the television news, I hear about Oregon's budget shortfall. While this causes us to wonder what happened for our state to get into such a situation, let us look at our neighboring states and realize that this seems to be a nationwide problem.
Fingerpointing and laying blame will not help our future. I agree that we need to determine if our state budget was mismanaged, but first we must save our state from cutting vital services.
Measure 28, which will be presented to the voters in January, is a temporary tax increase and a temporary fix for our budget shortfall. While we must find a permanent solution, we should at least consider Measure 28. Who would not be willing to pay $114 per year to maintain school services, courts, child protection services, state police services and keep prisoners behind bars?
Failure of Measure 28 will very likely result in deep cuts to education, including closures of schools and layoffs of educators. It would also result in the layoffs of our already thinly spread state police troopers. Additionally, courts, which are already flooded with cases, would be subjected to severe cuts, including child protection services. More than 3,000 convicted felons would have to be released into your and my neighborhood due to the forced closure of as many as seven correctional institutions and resulting in the layoffs of up to 1,000 correctional staff.
This is not a budget cut we can live with. And it is a very real problem. Perhaps we should urge our representatives to consider an alternative tax structure. Could we not benefit from an elimination or reduction in our income tax, but replacing it with a sales tax? Currently, only those who own property and work in the state are burdened with paying taxes. A sales tax would be income to the state from everyone and anyone who purchases goods in Oregon. Maybe it is time for a sales tax. Whatever we do, let us not trade off our children's future and our public safety in favor of a budget cut.