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Still a bad idea

Mail Tribune editorial

Kitzhaber should listen to those telling him to sign the flawed budget

You'd think ' after a month of explanation and clarification ' that Gov. John Kitzhaber's plan to veto several pieces of the Legislature's budget package would have started to sound like a good idea by now.

But you'd be wrong. The governor faces a Friday deadline to decide how to proceed with the package, and this much is clear: The vetoes still look like a bad idea.

Kitzhaber first used the V word at the beginning of July after the Legislature, in its third special session on the budget this year, finally scraped together a plan to cover an expected &

36;860 million shortfall in the current year. Full of desperation accounting maneuvers and issues left to voters to decide, it won few fans.

Kitzhaber began talking veto and has held that line ever since, saying it would be irresponsible for him to let the package go through as crafted. He's not far from right.

But the problem with the governor's alternative is the same as when he first proposed it. Its likely outcome would be a fourth special session ' we shudder to think what that might bring ' or nearly &

36;300 million more in cuts to education.

Kitzhaber complicated the discussion last week when he suggested letting voters decide whether an income tax surcharge might be a better approach than the Legislature's to balancing the budget.

We don't have a particular argument with imposing a surcharge to deal with the shortfall, but putting the concept to a vote would require the Legislature to convene again in the coming month. And it would require legislators to agree to put the question on the ballot. What are the odds they can do that?

If they did, the ballot presumably would leave voters to make sense of competing budget-related proposals. Was it the surcharge or the legislative package that sounded like the most likely route out of budget hell?

The governor says he's just trying to do right by the budget, and it's not hard to see where he's coming from. But he has given the veto idea a month to sink in and start to look right.

Over and over, as he has made his case, Oregonians have pleaded with him to hold his nose, forget the vetoes and avoid making the situation worse than it already is.

It's time for him to listen.