Editorial: Paying for Progressive Dreams

Progressive politicians dream of solving social problems with new government programs. The bill for these programs must be paid regardless of whether or not the program actually solves the problem and even when it makes the situation worse. How does this happen?

When the economy is rolling and tax receipts rise, progressives add new programs and increase spending for all existing programs. When the economy slows, suddenly and surprisingly there is a “budget shortfall,” which results in a call for higher taxes to solve the “funding crisis.”

In 1965, progressives in the U.S. Congress dreamed of fighting and winning a “War on Poverty” by passing Medicaid and other welfare programs. We now have more poverty than ever.

In 1973, Oregon Republican and Democrat progressives dreamed of protecting farmland and timberland from suburban sprawl of housing developments and passed SB100. Fifty years of restricting development of land, timber and minerals has led to a complete lack of affordable homes and apartments statewide.

In 2019, Oregon Democrats passed the Student Success Act to spend an extra $1 billion per year to improve student performance in Oregon public schools. This dream was funded by a new tax: Oregon’s Corporate Activities Tax, which applies to most companies with over $1 million in annual revenue.

As we approach the end of 2023, Gov. Tina Kotek accepted $1.1 billion in federal tax dollars to expand Medicaid (Oregon Health Plan) to include giving people money for food and rent.

In 2024, the governor wants lawmakers to spend another $600 million fight homelessness and subsidize homebuilding. She also wants more money spent on day care subsidies, teacher salaries and summer programs for students.

Rather than pass new spending programs to fix the problems caused by past spending programs, why not fix or repeal the government programs that have failed?

We can begin by reforming SB100, which mandated Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs) for every city in Oregon. Out of 63 million total acres, Oregon has only 395,000 acres zoned for residential development inside these UGBs. That’s not enough.

Oregon legislators should pass a bill mandating cities double their UGB acreage in 2024. This will kickstart a housing boom and not cost state taxpayers an extra penny.

Progressive dreams of better living through bigger government have become a nightmare for too many families. Working smart and working together, let’s get back on track in 2024.

Richard Emmons