Legislative involvement and the media

by Dave Mowry

I read with a wry smile the article in The Oregonian lamenting that more people were not running for the Oregon Legislature. The Oregonian blames this on low pay and long hours and those certainly are factors. But I go farther. I blame The Oregonian itself for it’s mean spirited portrayal of the legislature over the past year. There is no one The Oregonian likes to bash more than the legislature. So as The Oregonian laments the lack of candidates, it must also accept it’s share of the blame.

A big part of the legislature’s job is to balance the state budget. In 2005 they did this and did it well. With the defeat of Measure 30 and its billion-dollar tax increase the voters sent a strong message to the legislature and governor. “No new taxes.” And “Live within your means.” The House and Senate did just that.

Yet every week there is an article, editorial, or letter in the paper calling the legislators irresponsible, incompetent or a complete failure because there is not more money available in the budget. Why would a candidate want to run for office and put up with this abuse from the media and the special interest groups that continually demand more money?

Let’s face it. The Oregonian wants a sales tax. That is one reason they are promoting Ben Westlund. When The Oregonian says that the state needs tax reform they are talking sales tax. No matter that citizens have said no nine times and will a tenth if necessary. Evidently the reality of the fact that Oregon will not pass a sales tax does not keep The Oregonian from bashing the legislature for not passing one.

So The Oregonian needs to get realistic. There will not be any new taxes. Instead of offering solutions, The Oregonian bashes the legislature. To beat up the legislature for not continually referring tax votes to the people to be defeated is irresponsible.

When a candidate is interviewed by the media and proposes more money for a program, the first question back is, “Well, what are you going to cut to pay for it?” That is the same question The Oregonian needs to be asking itself. They need to lay out their plan. Let it see the light of day. If they want to increase funding for K-12 schools, human services, public safety and higher education, what other services are they willing to cut or what tax are they willing to increase?

In the mean time, stop bashing the legislature for living within our means. A little less negative press and there might be more people willing to join in the effort to do the State’s business.

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