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Sign for open primary, pass on spending limit TABOR

Sign for open primary, pass on spending limit

With Friday's deadline, the rush is on for petition signatures, but be choosy about which measures you support

The Oregonian, editorial page, July 5, 2006

This is, in a way, an election week in Oregon. Your choice? Vote with your signature, or with your feet, on citizen initiatives seeking places on the November ballot.

With Friday the deadline for signature gathering, we urge you to stop and sign a promising measure to create an open primary system in Oregon. As for nearly everything else being hawked in public places this week -- particularly a poorly designed state spending limit -- our advice is to walk on by.

Most of the proposals are solutions in search of problems. One would require the regional election of judges to the Oregon Supreme Court. Another would reinstate legislative term limits. The worst idea floating around the state is Initiative Petition 6, which would create a "taxpayer bill of rights," or Tabor measure, similar to a Colorado law. The Colorado measure wreaked such havoc that voters there chose to suspend the law for five years because it was damaging their universities, transportation systems and other services.

The out-of-state groups bankrolling the Oregon initiative have tried to camouflage their proposal by calling it a "rainy-day amendment," as though it somehow would bring stability to the state budget. In fact, in some ways the proposal is even worse than the Colorado law. It would count unemployment insurance payments against the state spending limit, forcing even deeper budget cuts during recessions, when unemployment jumps.

If Oregonians had approved the proposed Tabor initiative in 1990, it would have slashed the current state budget, requiring a 24 percent whack in spending on schools and other programs, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Oregon has a spending limit and does not need a new, destructive one. But it does need to do something about dwindling interest in its elections. The open primary, proposed by former Secretaries of State Norma Paulus and Phil Keisling, would invigorate the state's primary elections by inviting in voters and candidates of all political stripes.

Oregon's recent primary election in May drew only 40 percent of registered voters, one of the lowest marks in state history. Young voters stayed away in droves. In most cases, the major candidates for political office in this state were chosen by a thin slice of voters.

There is a better way. The open primary system would throw open the May election to all potential candidates, and the top two, regardless of party, would be chosen to go on to the November election. Such a system would enfranchise independent voters, now about one-third of the Oregon electorate, and still growing in number. That's worth doing, and if you get a chance this week, sign on to the open primary.

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