Sen. Whitsett and the Case of the Extremely Bad Idea

whitsettLate last week, Sen. Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) took to the Opinion page of the Oregonian to call for a constitutional cap on state spending—basically, calling for Oregon to spend even less on our K-12 schools, universities, and basic health care services for seniors.

In case you’re not familiar with what that means, you can look to Colorado, which passed a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” law that did just what Sen. Whitsett is calling for two decades ago. How’d that work out for them? From a report by the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities:

“Between 1992 and 2001, Colorado declined precipitously from 35th to 49th in the nation in K-12 spending as a percentage of personal income. As of 2006, the state maintained its low ranking among the states at 48th.”

“College and university funding as a share of personal income declined from 35th in the nation in 1992 to 48th in 2004; Colorado maintains that ranking in 2008.”

“Under TABOR, Colorado declined from 23rd to 48th in the nation in the percentage of pregnant women receiving adequate access to prenatal care, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

m48resultsBut, heck, if you’re looking for evidence of just how terrible this idea is, you don’t have to go all the way to Colorado. In 2006, anti-tax groups (including what became FreedomWorks) managed to get a ballot measure on the Oregon ballot that proposed a constitutional cap on state spending.

As it turns out, Oregonians really hate this idea. Measure 48 failed statewide by 71% to  29%, making it one of the biggest ballot measure flops in recent history. It failed, big, in all 36 counties in the state. In fact, in Sen. Whitsett’s own county, Klamath, the spending cap measure failed 63% to 37%.

Those results are unambiguous. A constitutional state spending cap was presented to voters, and when they discovered that it would mean even more cuts to the things they care most about (schools, health care, and public safety), their resounding NO vote echoed in every corner of the state.

Oregonians—like people around the country—definitely want their government to run efficiently and for tax dollars to be spent wisely (just check out the “Making Every Dollar County” report that came out last week). But big cuts that lead to bigger class sizes, higher tuition, and fewer options for senior care? That’s a one-way ticket to Nowheresville. (If you need directions, ask a Coloradan.)

5 Responses to “Sen. Whitsett and the Case of the Extremely Bad Idea”

  1. Anonymous

    Whitest is a typical “big rancher” type who doesn’t care about anyone but himself

  2. Not important

    Does spending money directly translate as better performance? If so, you need to address it in your article–otherwise you prove nothing that cannot be inferred. The point of capping spending is to spend less.

  3. Borderline

    I have to agree in part with Not Important on this subject. I can’t seem to find any studies about how spending more per student is translated into better instruction or higher graduation rates. It in fact seems to be quite the opposite. The more we spend the less the children are taught and few manage to make it to graduation with a suitable education that prepares them for anything more in life than a minimum wage job. Those that do go on to college, many need to take remedial classes so that they can take the basic college level courses in math and english. I see this as a failure to teach the basics rather than as a failure to spend enough money. Everyone needs to find out what the all-funds budget is for their school. State-wide it is just over $10,000 per student. In Portland it is closer to $12,000 per student. What is it at your school?
    As for many of the other programs, I’m quite sure that there are ones that should have never been started in the first place that could be cut. Government does not belong in competition with, nor should they be trying to pick the winners, in the private sector. Many of the state programs currently in operation do just that.
    The Oregon Constitution currently states that the budget must be balanced. When was the last time there wasn’t borrowing to achieve that “balance”?
    Like almost all levels of government in every state, there is a massive spending problem.
    When are you going to see that?

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