Monday, October 30, 2006

Sarasohn on Saxton's Magic Efficiencies

In yesterday's Oregonian, David Sarasohn wrote an excellent collumn about Saxton's magic "efficiencies." Saxton claims that Kulongoski is wasting money right and left, and that eliminating this so-called "waste" will allow him to cut taxes and increase/improve services at the same time. Sarasohn effectively calls bullshit. It seems Saxton thinks he can find so many "efficiencies" that he can allow Oregon to remain nearly last in the country in public education funding yet have a top of the line public education system.
So when Gov. Ted Kulongoski supports raising the $10 minimum corporate income tax to offer Head Start to all qualifying Oregon preschoolers, Saxton opposes the tax but supports expanding the program. He can get the money, he says, from efficiencies.

Saxton also opposes the governor's proposal for a car insurance charge to raise the number of state troopers. His new TV spot worries about the drop in the number of troopers, but he's confident he can find money to hire more in "efficiencies."

And he's just getting started.

Saxton has emphasized his skill at finding efficiencies in education, which he says could be improved without spending more money. But he supports strategies that would cost more money, such as increasing starting teacher salaries. His favorite education idea, advanced in multiple TV spots, is merit pay for teachers, which although controversial and complicated might conceivably save some money. But Saxton's campaign manager Felix Schein explained last week the program was meant to reward teachers who "went above and beyond" for their students -- meaning that it's likely to cost more.

By last week's debate, Saxton was talking about "an approach to education that involves more money" -- while the budget space to find his efficiencies gets tighter and tighter.

Maybe he needs an asterisk.

Saxton might need more than one asterisk to cover another of his positions: "Change is needed so we can insure the 600,000 uninsured Oregonians."

If you're going to do that with efficiencies, we've gone beyond medicine to miracles.

The list of things Saxton claims to be able to do while cutting taxes is rather incredible. After his appearance at Linfield I called Saxton the "free lunch candidate," Sarasohn sees the same thing. Unfortunately, Saxton's distance from reality might be why this race is even close. It seems that time and time again voters love the candidate who is going to do the impossible, increase and improve public services all while cutting taxes.

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