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Not scare tactics

Measure's failure will result in cuts to programs for the least able

We hear the same distrustful message over and over: We won't support new taxes until state government makes real and significant budget cuts.

But when government says it will make cuts that go beyond significant ' bordering on catastrophic ' those same critics accuse the budgeters of scare tactics.

What's the state to do? Well, we suggest, again, that when legislators come into session January, they lay out very specifically what services will be cut if Oregonians defeat a Jan. 28 measure that would temporarily raise income taxes. And then stick to the plan.

As it now stands, the state's leaders have detailed plans for an across-the-board cut that would hit all agencies hard. But legislators do a dance when asked if they would let those cuts stand. The bottom line is, probably not. Instead, they would likely shift the cuts away from K-12 education and public safety.

They might float more bonds and they probably would shift more cuts onto less popular programs, like the Oregon Health Plan and human service programs.

Measure 28 would raise &

36;312 million for this current biennium and &

36;412 million for the next biennium. As it now stands, if the measure is not approved, nearly every school district in Jackson County, and most around the state, would reduce their school year by one to two weeks. Hundreds of State Police officers would be laid off. More than 38,000 poor and disabled Oregonians would have their benefits reduced or eliminated. Drug and alcohol treatment programs would be slashed. And the list goes on.

But even attempting to go on with that list elicits cries of scare tactics! from those opposed to tax increases. The media are caught in a bind: We need to detail the consequences of the vote, but can't be absolutely certain those consequences will come to pass.

But we are certain there will be real and significant cuts. Most vulnerable are programs for the poor, the mentally ill, the people least able to fend for themselves. Voters in our state are apparently all too willing to look the other way while the less fortunate suffer.

The Legislature postponed paying the piper in special sessions this year by floating bonds and sending out Measure 28. If the measure fails and legislators decide to float more bonds, we'll be paying our way out of that deficit spending for years to come. That is, unfortunately, one likely outcome. Equally unfortunate is that, even with additional bonding, more cuts are in the offing.

Is saying that a scare tactic? No, it's reality.

Incentives to clear vegetation

It's December, but if you're a rural homeowner whose property could be threatened by wildfires, it's time to begin preparing for the next fire season.

Some major assistance is available. The Oregon Department of Forestry offers a financial incentive of &

36;330 per residence. The Bureau of Land Management has granted state forestry's Southwest District &

36;250,000 as part of the National Fire Plan's goal of increasing rural home protection.

Residents may apply for cost-share incentives of up to &

36;330 to thin vegetation immediately surrounding their houses.

National Fire Plan grants began about two years ago. Since then, the district has received about &

36;2 million to reduce wildfire threats to rural homes.

Homeowners can get assistance from ODF representatives in developing a fire hazard reduction plan tailored for the residence.

It's important that homeowners in Jackson and Josephine counties, where the grants are available, make use of this service. Doing so will make the woods safer for them, for firefighters and for their communities.

For more information, call the ODF office in Central Point at 664-3326 or the Grants Pass office at 474-3152.