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Oregon's disgrace

Local editorial

The Legislature has put us on the map: the last state without a budget

As hope for the latest state budget compromise evaporated Tuesday, we were forced to agree with State Senate President Peter Courtney: This Legislature is a disgrace.

We were encouraged last week when the evenly divided Senate announced what appeared to be a plan both parties could live with. The plan would use a small tax increase to reach a total of &

36;5.1 billion for schools ' &

36;200 million less than the minimum amount Democrats wanted, &

36;50 million more than the amount approved by House Republicans.

That's called compromise, which once upon a time was considered the lifeblood of the two-party system. No more, apparently.

Senate leaders on Friday announced the plan would get the 18 votes necessary to pass. The Senate is split 15-15. But two of the Republican leaders who worked on the plan, including Sen. Jason Atkinson of Jacksonville, announced Monday they would not vote for the package, and that it would not get the necessary three votes from the GOP caucus.

This, apparently, because it includes a tax increase.

— Now the 2003 session, already the longest in state history, appears unlikely to end before Labor Day. Schools will open the next day without knowing how much money they have to spend.

Oregon's Legislature isn't just a disgrace. It's a national laughingstock. We are the last state in the country without a budget.

And Southern Oregon lawmakers are part of the problem, not the solution.

As the Senate GOP caucus first helped craft a compromise, then pulled the rug out, House Republicans, including Reps. Rob Patridge, George Gilman and Dennis Richardson, continue to pretend they can come up with &

36;1.2 billion in new revenue without raising any taxes. Maybe if they click their heels together three times and recite, there's no place like Salem, it could happen. But we doubt it.

This state long ago passed the point where money could be found under rocks or squirreled away in a musty cupboard somewhere. It's all been found, and spent.

We can't say we're surprised at Atkinson or Richardson. They may be part of the problem, but at least they made it clear when they were running for office that they are staunch, no-new-taxes conservatives. Their constituents elected them knowing that fact.

Patridge and Gilman, on the other hand, came across as moderates who could work with the opposition party to fix the school fuding crisis. But when push comes to shove, they toe the party line and the deadlock continues.

Patridge clearly intends to maintain a leadership role in the Republican Party. Maybe that's more important to him than casting the tough vote for what's right for his constituents.

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Want to tell your legislators what you think about the state budget problem? Here's how to reach them: