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The TABOR line

Though it was apparently in a specially-released state, it isn’t on Ron Saxton’s web site, much though we looked. But maybe there’s good reason for that . . .

Ron SaxtonThe topic is the state spending initiative, slated as Measure 48, and certain to be hotly debated between here and November. We have no hesitation in declaring this one a dog of the most mongrelly sort, for this reason: It’s been tried elsewhere and failed abysmally. (We’ve addressed this before.) Under the label TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights), it was passed in Colorado in 1992 with strong support from the elected leadership of the Republican-led state. By 2005 those same officials, including Republican Governor Bill Owens, were supporting a ballot issue to table TABOR – put it on hold for five years – because the state’s finances had fallen to ruin because of it. One of the other political effects of TABOR was to help shift a state that seemed strongly Republican into one, in the last few years, moving fast into the blue column – anti-TABOR Democrats won a Senate seat there in 2004 and have swept the state legislature.

But in other states which haven’t yet experienced the wonders of TABOR, there’s still a strong Republican base in support of it. Now, in Oregon, it’s qualified for ballot status, and will be a top subject of discussion. So, if you’re Ron Saxton, Republican nominee for governor, what do you do? Agree with the Democratic incumbent, Ted Kulongoski, that it shouldn’t be passed, and thereby drive a wedge between your most enthusiastic party members and yourself (and united them with minor-party candidate Mary Starrett)? Or endorse it, risk losing the Great Middle, and support what you know isn’t supportable?

The catch is that Saxton is more than smart enough to see the problems inherent in TABOR; that’s why he hasn’t signed on with it. But, so soon after going to so much trouble to keep his party’s conservatives safely in the fold, he must be loathe to visibly tick them off.

So, a series of statements that keep raising more questions than they answer.

Today’s – this via the wire, since as noted it can’t be found on Saxton’s web site – says: “The best spending limit is a governor who himself acts as a spending limit.” He appeared to say he wouldn’t support Measure 48. Will he oppose it? Not so clear.

This kind of game has been going on for days.

It’s been tracked on the Saxton Watch blog. The post Saxton Executes the Extremely Challenging Political Quadruple Lutz, Taking Every Possible Position on TABOR runs through the variations. As it describes his statements on the subject:

March 14 AP Debate –Supports General Concept of Spending Limits.
April 2 Appearance on Outlook Portland – Not Ready to Endorse It, but Looks Reasonable.
April 30 Statesman Journal – Explicitly Says He Supports the Measure.
July 14 ONPA Debate – Won’t Be Campaigning For It or Against It.
July 14 (Later that Day) – Supports the Measure.
July 19 Oregonian – Backs off Supporting the Measure.
July 31 AP – Now Needs More Time to Study the Proposal.
August 3 Lars Larson – Praises it, While Declaring He Will Neither Support Nor Oppose It.
August 4 Declare He Will Not Support TABOR, Leaving Unsaid Whether He Opposes It.

Saxton Watch is of course an explicitly anti-Saxton site, and certainly it leans in the critical direction (you could interpret some of the statements they summarize in more favorable ways).

Still. The most obvious conclusion to draw about Saxton and TABOR is that he’s extremely uncomfortable in dealing, conclusively, with it.

UPDATE (8/5): Later on Friday, Saxton was quoted in the Eugene Register Guard as saying, “It’s a correct interpretation that I will not be voting for it . . . I don’t intend to engage in telling the voters one way or the other. I’m not going to be campaigning for or against this thing . . .”

A little clearer. But he still sound impaled on a barbed hook he’d like to escape from . . .

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