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IN THE RING: Who’s to blame for state budget woes?

This week’s question is:
Who’s most responsible for the state’s recently-announced $500 million budget gap?
A.  Governor
B.  Legislature
C.  Voters

<b>Marlene Quinn, event planner:</b>
“B.. They can’t seem to get it right…and A. goes along with B..”

<b>Stu Crosby, Multi-Tech Engineering:</b>
“The power to make those decisions rests solely with the legislature. The true answer to your question however is none of the above ……..the economic downturn is the major player…………….and our system of setting budgets for future bienniums ……..hard calls to make but easy to point political fingers when it doesn’t work out.”

<b>Warren Franklin, KYKN radio personality:</b>
“I believe all three have played a part in our our $500 million budget gap.

First, the voters for voting tax and spend liberals and progressives who believe bigger government is the answer to our problems

“Second, the legislature for having absolutely no self control.  They have a budget, but I’m not sure they know what to do with it except blow it up and over spend.

“Third, a governor who is like minded and won’t cut spending.  He is working right along side the tax and spend legislature.  He doesn’t seem to have any self control either.

“The only way to change this trend is to start with the voter who will send the tax and spend legislators home and bring in individuals who will reign the budget in and get this problem under control.”

<b>JoAnne Beilke, real estate agent and Chemeketa Community College board member:</b>
“Oh, if it was only that easy to put blame.  No one has that much power.  It takes many decisions for this problem.  I do believe , however, it is greed that
started the economy going downhill.  Not enough regulation from US government and Congress.  Too much government, so the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Duplication of services at all government levels.  Same can be said for the State Government.  But, right or wrong, on a state level the PERS and Health Costs are contributing greatly to the State’s problem.  I feel we are on a collision course and Education, Services and people will be hurt in the process.  Business in Oregon is at the small business level.  Over 80% of business, employs under 10 people.  Measures 66, 67 last year forced many to move out of state and many small business closed.”

“Every sector of the state is affected by this money gap.  Employers, employees,  all ages.  What is the solution?  Many reforms in public financing from Income to expendures .  It is a delicate balance.  Services will be cut .   The real question is do we the political will to make these decisions?”

<b>Dennis Koho, attorney and former Keizer mayor:</b>
“D – The taxpayers.  We apparently didn’t fork over enough of our money to keep
things running.  That’s a bit odd because my pocketbook sure feels like its
contribution was quite sufficient.

“OK, that’s a flip answer.  The real answer is far more complicated.  A more
accurate answer might be: the Governor for proposing so much spending; the Legislature for approving the spending; and the Voters for approving a taxation and spending scheme that takes away local control and has the State funding so much of education.

“I’d favor a return to the days when local taxpayers had to fund the levies they
approve.  Nowadays Portland Schools can approve massive outlays knowing that
“the State” pays for much of us.  What gets lost in the translation is that
“the State” is really all the taxpayers in the state.  That’s wrong.”

<b>John Morgan, MorganCPS Consulting:</b>
“B – clearly.

“One might say C but the voters never have a truly clear picture of all the impacts and ramifications of major actions. That is the purview of the Legislature, and they should rise to the responsibility of always being mindful of the long range view and presenting and advocating for strategies yielding the best long term results.

“The Governor, despite all the levels of expectations, is only one person and can only influence the Legislature to the degree they are willing to listen to the message.”

<b>Kimberly Strand, business owner:</b>
“This has become a pass the buck society with no body taking responsibility, I think they all have some responsibility.”

<b>James Willhite and Pat Ehrlich, vice presidents, Gubser Neighborhood Association:</b>
“It is difficult to place blame on the budget gap as everyone has played a part in it.  Being simplistic we can see everyone’s involvement.  The Governor proposes a budget for the Legislature to consider.  That proposed budget is based on revenue estimates prepared by the Office of Economic Analysis.  The proposed budget also reflects the funding priorities of the Governor.  The Governor also has a Council of Economic Advisors that provide him information on revenue forecasting.  The Legislature has the responsibility of enacting the budgets for the various state agencies which should reflect the required balanced budget.   The Legislature has the Legislative Revenue Office which among other duties makes estimates of state revenues.  The voters have had their say and involvement in impacting budgets through passing various initiatives that have had a major impact on state budgeting and revenue.  What caused the gap?  Is it bad estimates, poor budgeting, or too rich an appetite for programs by any or all of the three parties?  No one wants to step up to the plate and pay the taxes needed to support the services the public needs and asks for and no one has really been ready to bite the bullet and suggest dropping or cutting programs.”

<b>Roy Duncan, retired analyst, state of Oregon:</b>
“I remember it as if it was yesterday.  I was sitting with a group of other senior citizens and trying to make a point about some political issue and most of the others in the room looked at me as if I was speaking Greek.  They had not clue about what was going on politically in out town, our state, or our nation.  Then the other shoe dropped.  When we discussed America Idol most of them knew what was going on.  How can this be I wondered.  Political decisions can affect our family’s lives in many ways and for years but they would rather identify with would-be entertainers.

“Who is it that keeps electing incompetent and not quite bright lawmakers that see only higher taxes as the solution to any problem?  Is it the American Idol crew or those that want honesty and competence?  If voters keep electing self serving dummies and narcissists they will not get reasonable solutions.”

<b>Art Bobrowitz, Compass Rose Consulting:</b>
“The current issues facing Oregon rests firmly at the feet of the Governor and the Legislature. What we must accept is the $500 million dollar budget gap is not the main problem. It is a symptom of much larger issues. Oregon has a spending and a cash flow problem. It is spending money it does not have and quite possibly won’t have for years to come. What is also relevant is that the $500 million dollar number is quite possibly just round one.

“Legislative leaders must go “upstream” and have a frank discussion with Oregonians on what role government should have in their lives. What services should State Government really be delivering? That process requires tough questions and decisions with the necessary action plan to see it through. Is it easy? No. Is it necessary? Yes.

“This is not an innovative process. One only has to go back prior to 2008 and look at what the stock market and economy have been trying to tell government leaders all along. This is not a question of if we need to make the changes. We must have the courage to say the time is now. The private sector has been asking many of the same tough questions and implementing those changes. The interesting part is many started their process and implementing their plans over two years ago.”

<b>Vic Backlund, former GOP state legislator and retired educator:</b>
“”Actually, one could make the case that all of your listed potentials–the governor, the legislature and the voters–share in the blame for the $572 million gap.  It ultimately directly falls on the legislature, though, because it’s the legislature that decides what the final budget for each biennium will actually be and this legislatsure proposed new taxes.  The voters just recently approved those two tax proposals.  The voters also played an additional role because they elected the legislature and the governor.  The governor’s complicit as well because the governor first proposes budgets and those proposed budgets have risen each biennium.”

<b>Jacque Moir, former city councilor:</b>
“All three!  Firstly the voters for putting them in office.  Secondly the legislature and governor for not being able to budget appropriately and spending funds that are not there.”