Democrats backed themselves into a bad corner

The big question about Gov. John Kitzhaber’s budget plan was always if he could get the Legislature to go along with him.

The answer is no.

He wove together a budget plan that depended on three gambles.

He would get some $11 billion in health care savings over the next 10 years. That may or may not still happen.

Prison costs would be reduced by $600 million over the same period. Oregon sheriffs and others in the law enforcement community have balked at the plan.

And there was going to be $865 million in savings in this biennium from the Public Employees Retirement System or PERS. Kitzhaber’s own party has said no.

So now the Democrats who control both houses of the Legislature are working on crafting their own budget solution. Their unwillingness or fear to aggressively challenge public union retirement benefits meant they had to look for the money someplace else. They picked a bad place.

They first came up with a solution that included eliminating tax breaks for nonprofits. That was a choice to go after money for the poor, the homeless, and the hungry — instead of a flawed retirement benefit.

Democrats had the good sense to recognize that was not a good choice. They unveiled a revised bill pitched as targeting the wealthy and corporations with taxes and ending tax breaks.

But one way the bill does that is reduce deductions for high- income filers. Once again, because Democrats declined to follow Kitzhaber’s lead and challenge the state’s public unions, they are going after charitable giving.

They have backed themselves into a bad corner of public policy.