The Fuzzy Teddy Bear Amendment

October 12, 2006 at 11:27 pm (Politics, Republican incompetence)

It’s election time again, which means that Oregonians are once again being bombarded with a slew of initiatives. My personal favorite is Measure 48. My policy is to always vote no on an initiative that amends the Constitution, but in this case there is a very compelling case to vote no. (as an aside, I hate initiatives. Too much democracy is bad for deomcracy)

M48 will tie increases in biennial expenditures to the rate of inflation and population growth. (The Oregon Legislature only convenes every other year) This is the same policy that has so crippled Colorado that the Republican governor has suspended it. Recognizing this immense failure, the sponsors have abandoned the empty “taxpayer bill of rights” rhetoric, and are touting the Oregon version as a “rainy day amendment.” Read the text. It does not mention, even passively, a “rainy day fund.” Rather, it is presumed that any government revenues above the imposed spending limit will be held over to the next budget cycle, to be spent at the whim of the legislature. But that can only happen if revenues drop below the imposed spending limit, and in that case the legislature could only appropriate the difference. Dan Meek, in the Oregon Voter’s Pamphlet, sums it up nicely:

The surplus funds could be spent, above the cap, only after a 2/3 vote of both houses of the Oregon Legislature and a statewide majority vote in a November general election–which happens in the 17th month of the 24-month biennium. (emphasis his)

That restriction is right there in the text of the measure. That would of course require another ballot measure. The clear purpose of this measure is to, paraphrasing Grover Norquist, drown government in a bathtub. It would have to be a near depression for the economy to tank as badly as it would have to for this new “surplus” to function as any sort of rainy day fund.

Proponents of the measure, recognizing the public relations nightmare that this neocon wet dream has unleashed, have noted that while it doesn’t actually create a rainy day fund that can be used in a discretionary manner, neither does it specifically prohibit the legislature from creating one. I’m not kidding, I have heard people make this argument on Blue Oregon dot com.

Measure 48 does not specifically prohibit the legislature from doing a lot of things, including giving a free fuzzy teddy bear to all the orphans in the state foster care system. Despite that, in the interests of a sound fiscal policy, I am hereby urging all 8 of my readers to VOTE NO ON THE FUZZY TEDDY BEAR AMENDMENT!!

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