112 F. G. YOUNG people and the officials themselves to an appreciation of the possible worth of public service. This bias of the Oregon people has proven ineradicable. Time and time again the Oregon voters have evinced it. A fair interpretation of the repeated negative votes on proposals to give officials reasonable compensation, of the long tolera- tion of the vicious system of fees and perquisites, of the ap- propriation by the state treasurers of the interest on the public funds, gives the strongest ground for the inference that the average Oregon voter has preferred that his public servants should steal rather than legitimately receive a fair compen- sation. Another form in which this delusion that all public ex- penditures were so much unproductive consumption exhibited itself was the dread of a legislative session. Contemporary expressions of the public press prove most forcibly that legis- latures in session were veritable bete noires. They meant public expenditures for which taxes would be levied. And it is fair to say for the average citizen that for him this, in truth, was about all there was to it. With this aversion to the very idea of public expenditures, amounting to an obsession, the people created what they felt, or were led to believe, would give them the highest degree of immunity from public outlays. This series of supposed safe- guards against the expansion of public expenditures, through which they believed their grip on the public purse strings would be effective, were first, a virtually fixed rate of state levies down to 1885. When this device proved its frailty for this purpose, and they had to let go of it, systematic and increasing under- valuation of their property for taxation was relied upon to defeat the aim of higher state levies to secure larger state revenues. But all was in vain. The professional office-seeker, the despoiler of the public treasury and of the public heritage easily executed flank movements that defeated the purpose of the people with their supposed safeguards. Systems of fees and perquisites were created, imperial areas of public
Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/120
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