What is Oregon’s latest plan to fill the ever-expanding state deficit? Speeding tickets.
Last week The Oregonian published an article that said, after six years without, Oregon State Police troopers will resume around-the-clock coverage on Portland’s suburban highways.
For six years there has been a window between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. where the state troopers have left patrolling to local city and county police. Last Wednesday they started filling in that gap with newly hired recruits four nights a week. In July they’ll expand to seven nights a week, so the state troopers will be out 24/7.
This extended coverage might be understandable if it was necessary for safety. However, according to the Alcohol Alert Web site, an awareness site about drunk driving, both traffic fatalities and drunk driving have decreased in Oregon over the years. That leaves Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s main motivation fairly clear: The freshly recruited state troopers are an investment to pay off some of Oregon’s deficit with speeding tickets.
According to OPB News, the Oregon deficit is around $3 billion short of the amount of money needed to keep the state services running at their current status, and lawmakers expect that number to grow to $4 billion.
Citizens have to understand that the deficit must be filled somehow, but the state also has to understand that people are strapped for cash. A couple $100 speeding tickets could be the difference between putting food on the table or not. Or paying a mortgage payment or not. Or stimulating the economy by shopping or not.
Some people argue that as long as you’re not doing anything illegal, you have nothing to fear. That’s not necessarily the case.
Police usually target specific drivers, namely young people, such as college students who are driving home from studying, working or spending time with friends. College students are notorious for keeping erratic hours and not having any money. Gaining revenue from speeding tickets will only earn the state money if people have the cash to pay their fines.
There are so few cars on the road between those hours drivers will feel like turkeys during the Thanksgiving parade. Speeders will no doubt be among the first drivers that are targeted. But then, as troopers become bored and desperate to fulfill quotas, cars with burned-out taillights and others will be pulled over. Driving those hours and passing another car parked alongside the road with the red and blue flashing lights behind it will make you feel lucky that you didn’t win the state trooper lottery of “who to pull over next.”
Oregon is resorting to forced sources of revenue because things such as the proposed beer tax were so unpopular. Even though it would have only raised the price of pints by mere pennies, people were protesting. If you have money to buy beer, you have enough money to help prevent a complete failure of our rapidly declining educational system.
One way or another, Oregon is going to have to find a monetary solution to the budget crisis. Gaining revenue from speeding tickets is not the best situation as it puts individuals into a tighter bind and possibly takes money away from other businesses. Then, those businesses have a harder time paying taxes to the state.
Instead, Oregon and its citizens need to work together for a compromise that’s beneficial to both the state and the people living here. In order for this to happen, people need to be involved in local politics and the state government needs to be receptive to other people’s ideas.
Two ideas that keep getting mentioned in similar conversations are the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage. Albeit both are controversial, both Oregon and people would benefit.
The legalization of marijuana would allow the state to regulate and tax distribution. People are going to smoke pot whether it’s legal or not. Oregon might as well make a profit. Besides, the regulation would create jobs and purchasers don’t have to be worried that it might be laced with other drugs.
Weddings cost a lot of money. The state would directly earn money from gay marriage with certification fees. Plus, myriad local stores, bakeries and venues would also reap benefits from the added business. The better businesses are doing, the more people are employed and the less people Oregon has to support.
These are just two highly discussed ideas. Together Oregon’s state officials and Oregonians need to work together for innovative ideas that are mutually beneficial. The ideas may not please everyone, but it’s impossible to make everyone agree on anything. The greater good must triumph.