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The right track

Editorials

A small tax on auto insurance would raise millions to maintain OSP patrols

Rep. Rob Patridge, R-Medford, wants to levy a tax on monthly auto insurance premiums to establish a stable source of money for the Oregon State Police patrol division. We think he's on the right track.

Until 1980, the OSP was guaranteed funding from gas tax revenues. But voters that year decided to change that, shifting OSP's budget to the general fund, where the agency must compete with many other state departments.

The result was a decline in the number of troopers on the road. That decline accelerated with the defeat of Measure 28 last week and the resulting layoffs of 129 troopers and 157 other staff members.

In the wake of the layoffs, Oregon has just one trooper for every 13,800 residents. California has one for every 5,200.

Clearly, something must be done. The solution proposed by Patridge and Democratic Sen. Rick Metsger of Welches is a reasonable one.

Their bill would enact a tax of 3.125 percent on monthly auto insurance premiums, or about &

36;22 a year on the average auto policy of &

36;704 annually. The tax would raise nearly &

36;90 million in the next two-year state budget period.

Yes, it's a tax. But it taxes everyone who drives a car ' the people who directly benefit from the services and protection OSP provides. That makes it fair.

It's not much to pay to maintain the presence of troopers on our state highways and interstates.

And it wouldn't require a vote. The bill will be approved or rejected by the Legislature, not foisted off on voters.

We see that as a plus, too. In the days preceding the Measure 28 vote, many voters said they were angry at lawmakers for not fixing the budget problem themselves.

This is one step in that direction. We support this bill and urge lawmakers to pass it.

Artistic license

If you want to support the Oregon Cultural Trust and get a colorful addition to your vehicle at the same time, you can do so starting today.

A new Cultural Trust license plate goes on sale today at Driver and Motor Vehicle Services offices.

The new plate features an abstract design by Portland graphic designer Kelly Kievit. Oregon residents may purchase the new plate by paying a surcharge of &

36;30 when they register a vehicle at the DMV. Proceeds go into the Cultural Trust to support its grants programs.

You also can purchase a salmon license plate, available since 1998, or a Crater Lake plate, available since August. The salmon plate has generated &

36;2.8 million to support the Governor's Watershed Enhancement Board. The Crater Lake plate has managed to bring in its start-up costs; proceeds after that will go the the National Parks Foundation to support projects in the park.

There will be those who are critical of the new abstract plate on grounds that it is ... well ... abstract. But that's the way it's supposed to be.

If you want to support culture in Oregon, here's a way to make your money go exactly where you want it to, and not where the government decides to spend it.