Democrats’ plan not healthy for Oregon

By Ted Ferrioli February 10, 2009 05:39 pm

Many Americans start the New Year with renewed efforts to count calories and leave behind the excesses of the holiday season. 

But Governor Kulongoski and Democrat leaders seem to think now is the time to add inches to government’s waist line. In the spirit of the holidays, Democrats are convinced that government spending financed by a borrowing binge is the key to economic recovery.

They are wrong.

The prescription for Oregon’s ailing economy is not a spending spree, but an aggressive plan to trim the fat — to shed excessive government spending and commit to a leaner, healthier, sustainable lifestyle where jobs and family businesses can thrive.

Senate President Peter Courtney says he doesn’t “know how else to deal with the declining job market,” other than maxing out the state credit card.  What? This is a bad idea for the state, just like it is for the rest of us. Just ask the family struggling to pay $15,000 in credit card debt or the college grad whose credit card balance is higher than his annual salary.

Issuing bonds to generate revenue in this time of economic freefall is risky and expensive because of high and unpredictable interest rates. For Oregon taxpayers, it is a high-stakes option that could ultimately require significantly more tax dollars over the long run. 

The problem with the Democrats’ thinking is that it’s all about feeding the beast. The reality is that decades of unchecked spending have created a fat state government with an insatiable appetite. The result: A poor bill of health and a belly bulge that severely threaten our economic resiliency.

To endure the recession, we need to simplify, streamline, learn to do more with less and return to basics. We need to eliminate inefficiencies and wasteful spending, and then embrace a new, disciplined fitness regime.

Where to start? How about with a few Slim Down Solutions to cut the cost of state government and thereby leave money in the economy for local, lasting jobs? Here are some for starters:

• Institute a 90-day start-to-finish permit process for new construction and retrofitting. Let’s remove the barriers to new business and expansion in our state. 

• Place a temporary moratorium on new regulations. Red tape and bureaucracy stall business investment and new jobs. A recent survey by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council found Oregon among the 20 least friendly states for small businesses. 

• Finally, roll back the $258 million in massive pay increases handed out to state agency CEOs and employees last year. CEOs at state agencies already earn $100,000 to $135,000 a year. Some directors received raises of more than $30,000 – at a time when Oregonians statewide are bracing for lay-offs and reductions in wages and benefits.

These types of changes will lighten our load and boost our resiliency at a time when we need every advantage to offset the recession. They are the beginning point for the sustainable fitness plan that Oregon needs to ensure working class families and small businesses can prosper. 

A cure all? No, but definitely a smart and healthy start for the new year and for Oregon’s sustainable future. 

Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, is Senate Minority Leader. His Senate district includes Baker County.