Oregon, like many states faced with budget deficits, took a novel approach when its legislature was unable to decide whether to raise taxes or cut spending: it left the choice to the voters, via a referendum. The alternatives in the referendum were a three-year tax increases and pre-identified spending cuts. The spending cuts were apparently selected to discourage people from voting for them: “halting medical benefits to 12,000 elderly or disabled people, laying off more than 100 state troopers and closing public schools from a few days to six weeks ahead of schedule,” as reported by the Washington Post. (Sort of like when voters in my school district didn’t pass a tax increase, the district left teachers’ pensions and all administrative expenses intact, but terminated all bus service.) No matter. By a 54-46 margin, the voters of Oregon chose spending cuts. Now the pressure will be on legislators to find alternatives to the first spending cut that went into effect: “The fallout began yesterday in Portland, where Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto freed 114 inmates whom he said the county cannot afford to incarcerate without state aid.”
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