All too often, we see what happens when the government tries to do too much—cost overruns, lax oversight, mission creep between different agencies and core functions not being done well. That is one of the many reasons that I’ve always thought government should stick to doing a few things and should seek to do them well.
In my two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives, I saw the results of the state government trying to be all things to all people. My first term began in 2001 and the nation was in recession. I was assigned to the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee and tasked with balancing the budget amid declining revenues.
Luckily, my colleagues and I were able to accomplish this without raising taxes. We did it by identifying and prioritizing key services. Expensive, non-essential programs that only served a few people were eliminated and spending was brought under control.
In the years since then, our state leaders have constantly expanded the scope of what they think the state government should do. And now that the economy may be headed into recession, the state could be in a world of hurt and potentially painful budget cuts.
One of the reasons I enjoyed serving as Clackamas County Commissioner from 2013 to 2017 is that county government has the unique position of being the closest to the citizens it serves.
During my stint as commissioner, I took the same approach to governance and budgeting that I did in the Legislature. Not only was the budget balanced, but the county had a surplus of funds.
In the years since then, the county leadership has taken a much different direction. The approach has been to grow government’s footprint without regard to the ability to pay for it further on down the line. Consequentially, this fiscal recklessness has meant deficits of $20 million over the last two years and discussions about the need for “rightsizing” county government.
The real problem is that county government got too large in the first place. It’s time to get back to the basics.
County government’s top priorities should be law enforcement and all aspects of its criminal justice system, the infrastructure that is needed to keep people and products moving, and essential services that are valued by citizens, such as alleviating homelessness.
As chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I will use my previous experience to return the county’s budget to sound financial footing. I have a proven track record, at the state and county level, of balancing budgets without burdening citizens with higher taxes.