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Local editorials

Here they come again The anti-tax forces are back with an ill-advised measure to cap spending

Oregon's initiative system continues to attract the kind of attention the state doesn't need.

The same Washington, D.C.-based zealots who worked to defeat Measure 30, the compromise tax measure to balance the state budget in 2003, are back. Last time, they were known as Citizens for a Sound Economy. This time, they're calling themselves FreedomWorks. But they're still run by former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

Their new initiative is part of a nationwide effort to pass a Taxpayer Bill of Rights in every state that allows initiatives. The Oregon version would limit growth in state spending to the growth in population plus inflation.

The measure is modeled after a law Colorado voters approved in 1992. Many Coloradans ' including the governor, who supported the measure ' have come to regret it, and now are trying to get voters to ease its restrictions enough to let the state recover.

There are two big problems with using population and inflation to cap state spending.

When the economy tanks, as Colorado's did in 2001 when the hi-tech bubble burst, the state can't recover along with the economy because the bottom of the trough becomes the new baseline for spending increases. That makes a Colorado-style spending cap even more dangerous for Oregon because we rely on the personal income tax, which is notoriously sensitive to dips in the economy.

— The second problem with such a cap is that some state budget demands don't neatly follow general population or inflation trends. The cost of health care, for example, is rising much faster than inflation, and Oregon's senior population is growing faster than the state as a whole.

Oregon voters should simply say no to this cynical attempt to put a straitjacket on state government. And opponents of the measure should campaign hard against it.

But instead, the state teachers' union and Service Employees International Union Local 503 have filed a counter-measure, which would exempt schools, universities, health care, senior services and public safety from spending limits. Needless to say, the competing measure would virtually gut the spending cap. It could also generate a court fight if both measures passed.

Oregonians should tell the Washington, D.C.-based anti-tax crusaders to stay home. Opponents of the spending cap should focus on defeating it, not on trying to beat FreedomWorks at its own game.

Take a break Indulging an obsession might include spending too many hours watching television, working or online. Some spouses might put golf at the head of the list.

The problem is that an obsession means other activities are put on the back burner while you indulge.

In South Korea, that indulgence centers around computer gaming. Seventy percent of Korean citizens are online, the world's highest rate per capita. The gaming obsession has led the South Korean government to fund construction of the world's first electronic sports stadium.

The downside of this new craze involves the hours spent at practice. Participants neglect sleep, nourishment and hygiene. There have been reports of hospitalization and even death.

The warning is clear: Those who are obsessed need to set a time limit for their favorite pastime. Life exists on multiple levels. Try not to miss out on any of them. Don't ignore chest pain on the golf course, headaches while online or fatigue from indulging in marathon practice.

Here's an epitaph few of us would wish for: Here lies John Doe. He died while playing video games.