It’s over. As Oregonian political writer Harry Esteve reports here on Oregon Live, the Oregon House has just passed its down-to-the-skeleton emergency budget by a vote 0f 37-22. The vastly pared budget, identical to the version passed Tuesday by the Senate, includes the expected raiding of $1.8 million in direct donation — not tax payments — to the Oregon Cultural Trust. Gov. Ted Kulongoski is expected to sign the new budget early next week.
So that’s that — for now. And if nothing else, it diverts some of the spotlight from State Senator Margaret Carter, who’s lucky that people in Oregon are mostly pretty polite, or her performance on Tuesday might have gone viral by now.
Like her fellow Oregon state legislators, Carter — chief of the Senate’s budget committee — is stuck in a politicians’ nightmare. The economic catastrophe has forced her and her colleagues to make deep budgetary cuts guaranteed to prompt howls of anguish and cries for their heads. Nobody knows exactly where this thing’s going, but the best guess is that before cuts the state budget hole is $855 million right now and will be $3 billion for the 2009-11 cycle. That’s a lot of enchiladas. Legislators face the distressing challenge of dealing with a situation that has no good solutions: Whatever they do, on some level it’s going to be wrong.
So it’s no wonder they get testy. And in announcing the state Democrats’ lockstep approach to the new budget, Carter got testy, indeed, as reported by David Steves in the Eugene Register-Guard:
â€œThere are those who are whining all over the place about â€˜you cut this and you cut that,â€™â€‰â€ she said, wiping away mock tears during a speech on the Senate floor. â€œThe fact is that we had to cut. Thatâ€™s why I call this the shared cut and shared responsibility model.â€
A few places picked up on the mockery right off the bat, including fellow Scatterer Barry Johnson on his alternate-universe blog, Portland Arts Watch.
When I reported here Tuesday on the Senate’s budget bill I skipped Carter’s little performance of pique because I wanted to concentrate on the issues. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this IS one of the issues, and an important one.
Politics is a messy and often ugly process, but one good thing to remember is this: If you’re going to pick people’s pockets, at least apologize to them and treat them with a little respect. What you don’t give, you don’t get back.
Among the “whiners” for whom the senator shed mock tears: advocates for homeless people and schools; 911 emergency system workers; university officials. Greedy fat cats, all.
And, of course, artists and their supporters, who for some reason seem upset that the Senate grabbed $1.8 million they contributed voluntarily to the Oregon Cultural Trust on the state’s promise that the money would be used for cultural purposes only and would be strictly separated from the state general fund. We discussed the moral and legal implications here, although the legal ramifications are much murkier than they appear on the surface: As with George W. Bush, apparently, if the Oregon Legislature does it, it’s legal.
I don’t believe Margaret Carter is the callous person her comments on Tuesday made her appear. I do believe it’s easier to make tough decisions that have bad consequences if you can imply that the victims of your actions somehow deserve it. The whiners. The me-firsts. The selfish cultural types who think we owe them the world.