Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Grants Pass: Daily Courier Endorses SAXTON


Grants Pass Daily Courier Endorses Saxton

Grants Pass Daily Courier Editorial - Oct. 5, 2006

Saxton's fresh ideas would be good for Oregon

Ron Saxton realizes you must control personnel costs to keep government affordable and supports active management of forests to help Oregon's rural economies.

On the other hand, Gov. Ted Kulongoski isn't about to take on pay-and-benefits issues, having allied himself with unions, and has shown he'd rather lock up forests than use them for multiple uses, including creating jobs.

These are two big reasons the Daily Courier editorial board endorses Saxton over Kulongoski in their gubernatorial race on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Overall, it's refreshing to see Saxton, a moderate Republican, in the finals for governor after the GOP's last gubernatorial candidates, Kevin Mannix and Bill Sizemore, swung to the right in efforts to pick up the most conservative voters. Saxton has refused to do that. For example, he supports some abortion rights for women and refuses to back Measure 48, which would impose unrealistic limits on state spending and thus endanger schools and other vital institutions.

Schools and other important functions of government can be endangered from within, too, by overly generous compensation for workers. The prime example of this was the Public Employees Retirement System, which four years ago was paying participants with 30 years service more money in retirement than they made while working.

It's ridiculous to talk about controlling the cost of government without including personnel costs, which often account for high percentages of public budgets. For example, they're 80 to 90 percent of the budgets of the two Josephine County school districts. Certainly, teachers, state and city employees and the many other public workers in Oregon deserve fair compensation. It becomes unfair when it's much more than most taxpayers get and cuts deeply into services they receive.

It was Saxton who first alerted the public to out of control PERS costs, before he was eliminated in the 2002 Republican primary. Eventually, the 2003 Legislature made reforms and reduced PERS costs somewhat. Saxton still thinks PERS needs to be revisited and government contributions for health care premiums capped, where they haven't been already. He also wants to look at privatizing services.

Democrat Kulongoski was a late convert to PERS reform and received a slap on the wrist from public employee unions when he didn't oppose cuts. They withheld their support in this year's primary to show their disgust, but jumped on his bandwagon for the Nov. 7 election.

Kulongoski is an intelligent, honorable and sincere person whose main pitch for re-election is he helped get Oregon's economy back on track after the devastating recession early this decade. He says the state has added more than 100,000 jobs during his first term. However, it's hard to determine how big of role the governor played in this. In addition, more than 40 percent of the jobs added were low-paying, according to the Oregon Department of Employment.

Kulongoski's desire for jobs doesn't apparently stretch to the forests of rural Oregon, at least not when it comes to one issue. The governor supports former President Clinton's plan to lock up 58.5 million acres of national forest, or one-third of it, as roadless area. He even called for further delays on Biscuit Fire salvage logging until the still unresolved issue is settled.

In contrast, Saxton supports more logging on state and federal forests to provide jobs — along with wildlife habitat, clean water and recreation.

One of Kulongoski's criticisms of Saxton is his only government experience was serving on the Portland school board from 1997 to 2000. However, we feel coming in from the outside can be an advantage. Saxton can take a fresh look at government and will probably be more willing to step on toes to accomplish things than a government veteran like Kulongoski.

We recommend voters give Saxton a chance to do so by marking his name on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Election recommendations are decided by the Daily Courier editorial board — the president, publisher and editor — and thus aren't signed by an individual, as is the newspaper's usual policy.

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