You go, Ted

March 04, 2003 11:00 pm

A columnist for The Oregonian called Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, a "socialist" in the Portland newspaper's Sunday edition.

We wouldn't be surprised if the bombastic Willamette Week named Ferrioli as its "Rogue of the Week" in their next issue.

Hey, on a senator's salary, Ferrioli needs all the two cents he can get, so here's ours:

You go, Ted.

At issue is a proposal by the City of Portland to raise $15 million with an increase in the city's business license fee. The bailout would only be for Portland Public Schools, since only Portland businesses would pay the tax.

Ferrioli likens the proposal to the Craig-Wyden Bill, a federal subsidy intended to bail out federal receipt-dependent rural schools and counties.

You see, once upon a time, rural counties and schools received a percentage of timber and mineral receipts from the untaxable federal lands within their county borders.

With the reduction of timber harvests on federal lands, those federal dollars to rural counties and schools plummeted. The untaxable public lands remain.

Craig-Wyden, named after its chief sponsors, Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig and Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, provides six years of payments to county schools and road departments based upon an average of the three best of the final years of productive logging on public lands in the West.

The money was intended to go directly to the counties and school districts devastated financially by the loss of federal timber receipts.

But over the protests of Congress, Oregon became the only Western state to take the money intended to go directly to cash-strapped rural school districts and put it into the education funding pot for all Oregon school districts — including Portland.

The Portland business fee increase is to Portland School District as the Craig-Wyden money is to Baker 5J and other rural timber-dependent school districts.

Barred by voter-approved measures from increasing property taxes, Portland seeks a "fee" increase to supplement tax revenues. The timber-dependent counties sought payment from the federal government in lieu of the property taxes we couldn't collect on Forest Service and BLM ground.

To put it another way:

Our dire straights should unite Oregon, not divide it, in a quest for more stable school funding.

The Portland politicos and pundits who charge Ferrioli isn't being part of the solution need to look in the mirror and adjust their baseball caps before they talk about misplaced priorities.

Rural Oregon has reluctantly chipped in its share of the Craig-Wyden money to keep our schools more solvent statewide. What could have been increased funding for only our own school districts became a statewide revenue source.

Why shouldn't Portland should do the same?