Governor Theodore T. Geer's Administration
Inaugural Message, 1899
Source: Journal of House of the Legislative Assembly, 1899, Governor's Inaugural Address, Salem, Oregon, W.H. Leeds, State Printer, 1899.
INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF GOVERNOR T. T. Geer
TO THE TWENTIETH LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 1899
Elected by my fellow citizens to serve them during the nest four years as their chief magistrate, I come before you to assume the official obligation which requires me to support the constitution of the United states, the constitution of the state of Oregon and to see that the laws shall be faithfully executed. Deeply conscious of the great responsibility attaching the position which has been assigned me and profoundly grateful for the expression of confidence in me, which has been so generously shown, I approach the performance of my new duties with a clearly defined ambition and intention to serve all the people of Oregon with fairness and with fidelity.
IN compliance with a constitutional provision which requires the legislature to meet every two years, you are now assembled for the purpose of considering the wants of the people and of improving their condition wherever it is possible by legislative enactment. By virtue of another requirement of the same instrument it is made the duty of the executive to give an outline of the measures which, in his judgment, should engage the attention of the legislature. In obedience to this mandate, I will ask your consideration of a few suggestions, the heeding of which it is thought will subserve the best interests of the people. Your biennial assemblage is not to be regarded as a period of recreation, but rather as one of the work and application. Your coming together is simply a plain business proposition. Your are ninety men bearing the great distinction of having been chosen to transact important business for 500,000 people, and the same adherence to the principles of economy that governs you in your private matters should guide you with double force in the care and expenditure of public money, while ours is believed to be one of the most economically administered state governments in the union, the fact furnished no reason shy still further reductions should not be made wherever possible.
Fortunately, as it seems to me, there is no demand and, therefore, not necessity for any great amount of general legislation. The condition of the state does not require it. Not radical changes are needed anywhere, and during the pending session I advise every legislator to be careful as to what public or private interest he undertakes to affect by his proposed legislation. The most searching investigation would find it difficult to recall a period during the past twenty-five years when there was so little adverse criticism of existing conditions by the people or the press, or when there was so little demand for any kind of new legislation. The general trend of our law-making efforts during the last few years seems to have been in the interest of the people, and since the work is governed too much anyway, you can, perhaps, pursuer no safer policy than to accomplish what little legislation seems necessary within the nest thirty days and adjourn without further expense to the state or yourselves.
This consummation is not only desirable, but feasible, in view of the work already done by your honorable bodies during the special session in October last. The same industry shown during the next thirty days would easily meet all the demands of the people, and it is, therefore, earnestly hoped that you will give them a shorter session than the constitutional limit of forty days. Each day you are at the capital, whether in session or not, costs the state more than $1000, and since your own compensation is too small to offer any inducement to remain longer than the public interest actually requires, it is hoped that the general which for an early adjournment will be granted. During the special session in October you appropriated $28,000 for you own expenses besides $40,000 for a legislative abortion two years before for which the people did not receive so much as one cent in return. In view of this, it is hoped that we are not now confronted by another appropriation of $40,000 for a full forty days’ session. The various committees appointed to pursuer certain lines of investigation during your vacant have worked diligently and their reports, being now ready, will materially advance your work at the outset. As a rule, the best legislative results are job or ill-advised measure succeeds it is always the product of the leisure time which the longer session affords. I am extremely anxious that this legislature shall make a record that will meet the approbation of the people, and there is not a taxpayer in the state who would not speak approvingly of an adjournment at the end of a thirty days’ session.
It will not be possible to do so, however, if the usual custom of introducing a flood of bills on all conceivable subjects is to be perpetuated. The number of bills introduced at the average regular session almost, if not quite, equals the whole number of laws on our statute books; and since few of them are of an original nature it follows that, as a rule , they are simply attacks in one form or another, on existing laws. No sooner does the common citizen become acquainted with what the law is, than a subsequent legislature chats it, and he finds himself in trouble before he knows it. Even the practicing layer, with the aid of a large library and the help of the courts, finds it difficult to fathom the meaning of the average legislature, and when this is so what is to become of the working man in the foothills of a distant county who has no assistance in the matter but his weekly newspaper?
The interminable multiplicity of conflicting laws is the curse of our legislation, both state and national, and burdens our judiciary whose principal business is to interpret obscure or ambiguous legislative enactments. No law should be passed the intent and effect of which cannot be easily understood by the plain citizen who is patiently building himself and family a home in a remote part of the state and thus upholding and strengthening the outposts of civilization. The laws passed here are for his government; he represents a class of people to which nine tenths of our fellow citizens belong and to whom we are indebted largely for that subjection of seemingly insurmountable difficulties which gave us originally this magnificent inheritance. This citizen and his class should be in your minds at all times during your deliberations, and especially during the third reading of bills. He is engaged today in that struggle which, if successful, will bring our state to that degree of industrial development which we are all hoping to realize in the near future, but his interests are not represented here save as they find expression in your votes in these two chambers. He is never represented by the professional lobbyist and any kind of crooked legislation always results in his injury.
It would be difficult to find better proof of the excellent condition of our state, even without any additional legislation, than is furnished in a public statement made by the distinguished retiring secretary of state only last year. Among other things he said: “There are fewer state officers in Oregon than in most other states and expenses are on a very economical scale. Most of the taxes collected are to carry on municipal and county governments. The rate of taxation for all purposes, municipal, county and state, is lower than the average in other states, and the assessed valuation of property is not more than one third of its real value, while in nearly all other states property is assessed for taxation at about its full value. For this reason, a 3 percent. Tax in Oregon is only about one third as costly to the owners of real and personal property as is a similar tax to owners of property in neighboring states. The assessed valuation of all property in Oregon for taxation is about $150,000,000, or little if any more than one third of its real value, so a 3 per cent. on the actual value.”
This is a strong statement, and true, save that as to the tax levy the outgoing board has been compelled to almost double the rate for the ensuing year. This has been found necessary partly because the tax levy last year was too low to supply the needs of the state government, and deficiencies must always be met by an additional tax. Besides, the expenditures authorized by a session of the legislature one year must be charged to the next year. These levies and appropriations necessarily vary from year to year, but this increased tax levy is brought to your attention as a deterrent force in the matter of making appropriation that can, without crippling the state service, be avoided.
It is to be hoped that you will give the people the minimum quantity of legislation at this session. I am disposed to speak with some plainness on this subject for the reason that I have had somewhat extended service in your ranks and have seen and felt and even been controlled by the tendency to be over industrious in the matter of new legislation. It is a mistaken idea to suppose that to meet the approbation of your constituents, you must necessarily be conspicuously active; some times a man’s activity results in his own undoing. One of the greatest dangers that confronts you, gentlemen, is the fact that you have forty days at your disposal in which to do less than thirty days’ work. The state’s prison is not the only place where an abundance of idle time is a sure progenitor of mischief; it is seen in all walks of life.
Assuming, as I believe I have a right to do, that scores on measures are introduced in every session more for the desire to appear industrious than from a sincere wish that they should become laws, the conclusion that it is all wrong is justified by the fact that it goes to swell the expenses of the state printing, --- a source of public expenditure that already amounts to vastly more than it should. Not only so, but it needlessly occupies the otherwise valuable time of the various committees. This thought naturally leads to the further consideration that this buncombe introduction of bills adds greatly to the grievous burden which already bears heavily on the army of committee clerks who are dragged here during every session from their homes in the various parts of the state.
Allow me to say a word here about this matter of clerk hire. My legislative experience reaches back to the regular session 18 years ago and in the meantime I have seen the most meager employment of clerk hire grow into an absolute public evil whose tenacity of life seems to successfully defy the opposition of campaign pledges, platform denunciation and even the public wrath itself. The abuse of this privilege has developed into a public wrong the continuance of which is absolutely without justification, and its abatements, not at some future session, but at this one, involves you a reputation and mine for sincerity in the matter of public promises to the people or Oregon. I can go no further, however, than to call you attention to the necessity for its discontinuance in the interests of public economy and the fair treatment of the taxpayers all over the state who can only support their families by constant toil and exposure. These people should never be forgotten when voting money out of the treasury for any purpose, and when you employ, if you do, and army of clerks for whom there is nothing to do, you do an act for which there is no extenuation whatever.
The people are not niggardly and do not require a niggardly policy at your hands. I believe they are perfectly willing to pay a fair an even a liberal compensation to officers who perform duties for which he is a public necessity, but it has been shown time and again that more than one half the standing committees of either house have no more use for a permanent clerk than they have for a Chinese interpreter.
AS a probable means of securing relief to the people in this matter I have instigated the records sufficiently to discover that in 1880 there were employed in the senate 14 clerks and 10 in the house. There were 268 bills introduces in both houses, giving an average of 11 bill to each clerk. In 1882 there were 28 clerks, all told, with 292 bills, giving an average of 10 bills to each clerk. IN the session of 1893 there were 153 clerks employed to consider 607 bills, or one clerk to consider every four bills. In 1895 there were 155 clerks employed to properly handle 630 bills, or an average of one clerk to every four bills. Of course, it is not difficult to comprehend the mental and physical exhaustion that must be the portion of a clerk who has been compelled to follow the career of four bills through a session an only forty days to do it in.
IN the session of 1895 the number of senate and house clerks proper was only 138, or 15 fewer than the session previous, but, unfortunately, there appears at the same session a new species called “joint clerks,” 17 in number, who drew nearly $3,000 for “services” and swelled the total number, after all, beyond that of the previous session. To press this question a little nearer home, gentlemen, it becomes necessary to say that while the character and quantity of your work in the special session was very commendable, you employed in both houses 110 clerks to take care of 162 bills, or only one bill and a half to each clerk. The cost of this service was $7,457 or $61 for each clerk and $46 for each bill.
Now, admitting that a number of these clerks were employed on investigating committees, the fact will still remain that the average task of each clerk was to look after not more than two bills, and most of these failed to become laws. WE would be compelled to go a long way before finding a taxpayer who would grow enthusiastic in support of this sort of business.
The entire reformation of this abuse can be accomplished by a concurrent resolution providing for the appointment of a chief clerk, under whose direction a force of committee clerks could be detailed for service form committee to committee, as application light be made to him by the chairmen of the different committees. There can be no doubt that 50 clerks employed steadily for eight hours each day could easily do all the clerical work required at any session of the legislature.
But there is another abuse which has been growing form year to year, and which has still less basis for justification from any point of view. I refer to the appointment of committees to “revise the journals” of the two houses after adjournment. I have served on two such committees and know from experience that they are absolutely worthless as a means of securing the object for which they are ostensibly intended. How is a committee to know when a mistake is found in the proceedings on a certain day, when perhaps six weeks have elapsed since the proceedings were had? And when it is thought a mistake has been discovered, what right has any member of the committee or the committee itself to interpose its recollection as against the record itself? I have never known and instance where this has been done in a case where the correction was of any consequence whatever. The power given to such a committee by the resolution authorizing its appointment is absolute, without any qualification of any kind. The legislature simply delegates to a committee the power to change the record, and the right to change the record is the right to legislate. There is no legislation aside from the record. I think it safe to say that no such committee has ever exercised the right to alter the record, because it has no right to such a right. This being true, there is no use for such committee. Even the work of preparing the journals for publication by the state printer is done by competent stenographers employed by the secretary of state.
The cost of this work has been increasing from session to session with the same comfortable ratio that has attended the expense of other kinds of clerk hire. In 1889, it cost $711; in 1893, $1,300, and in 1895, $1,489. for correcting the journals of the late special session $500 have already been paid our, with some bills not yet presented.
Extended comment on the necessity for an abatement of these increasing and needless expenditures would be superfluous. The blame cannot be specifically located, but the reformation can be accomplished by a firm determination on the part of each member to return at once to the simpler methods that governed legislative bodies in earlier days. The fact that we know it would please the people to do so is all the incentive we should need to insure the effort being crowned with absolute success.
It is a source of constant regret that so much turmoil exists in many of the institutions located away from the state capital and governed by boards of trustees and boards of regents. There are reasons for believing that much of this is caused by the prevalent idea that the institution should be used as a means of permanently benefiting the town where it is situated. This perversion of intent in harmful in the extreme. Institutions have been located in carious section of the state, not with the expectation that the institution would help the locality, but that the locality would help the institution, and in some instances this interference of local interests cripples the institution, enters the social life of the tow, and in some cases have been known to hamper the efficiency of the local public schools. This difficulty could be largely, if not altogether, obviated by providing that not more than two members of a board of regents or trustees should be appointed from the county where the institution is located. This would make it more nearly a state institution and remove it form a selfish interests of local influences. Besides these boards are all too large. Three trustees could transact all the business at the soldiers’ home, for instance, not only as well, but far better than five do, and, of course, at much less expense. There ay be wisdom in the multiplicity of counsel, but the increased wisdom is usually rendered nugatory by the cross purposes and wrangling that generally attend the deliberations of too many counselors. This was perhaps the view of the framers or our state constitution when the provided that all state institutions should be located at the state capital, where they could be governed by a board composed of a limited number of state officials, who at any time can meet for the transaction of unexpected business, and who have no other calling to divide their attention from the performance of public business. The more nearly a certain business becomes everybody’s business the more nearly a certain business becomes everybody’s business the more nearly it becomes nobody’s business’s To be sure, this rule cannot be enforced in the case of schools and to her institutions located at a distance from the capital, whose boards and regents and trustees are required to serve without compensation, but where the state exacts the services of its citizens without pay it will get better results from the employment of the smallest possible number that will serve the purpose. Wherever it is possible to place or keep the management of a state institution under the control of a board of state officers, who are near it as all times and who have no other lines of business to demand their attention, it should surely be done. In examining the history of the control of our different state institutions, it will be found that the best results have been obtained from those governed by a board composed of a limited number of state officials, while there has been more or less trouble in those whose government is vested in aboard of trustees living in different parts of the state and who too often come together on a war footing for the transaction of public business.
At the special session you very wisely passed an act to more thoroughly protect the salmon industry of the state. According to its provisions a state fish commission is created whose duty is to “select and locate a suitable site or sites for the construction of fish hatcheries, and to construct thereat such hatcheries as in their judgment will be to the best interest of the fishing industry.” The fulfillment of the condition of this provision will necessitate and appropriation of a sufficient sum to construct the required number of hatcheries. The magnitude, importance and possibilities of the fishing industry cannot easily be over estimated, and I trust there will be no hesitancy in supplying the necessary legislation to make the new law effective. During the last 20 years the value of our salmon product has been nearly $70,000,000, and gives employment to thousands of deserving laboring men. Remembering that this does not interfere with the amount of the land products of the state, but is confined to the rivers and smaller streams, we obtain a clearer conception of its importance. Computed merely by the actual area of surface occupied by our rivers, their value exceeds any equal amount of land surface in the state an hundred fold, and since these arteries not only of commerce, but of life-giving food, are distributed throughout our state, like many other blessings, more generously than in any other state in the union, we should our appreciation of them by the most careful and helpful legislation. To bring about the most satisfactory results in this matter it is absolutely necessary that our laws on the question should be as nearly as possible identical with those of the state of Washington. For this purpose you should immediately appoint a committee to confer with a similar committee from that state to adjust such differences as may be of greatest importance. Such committee, I am informed, will be duly appointed by the legislature of that state. You will find in the very exhaustive report of the fish commissioner a fund of information on this question that will aid you very greatly in the work before you.
IN obedience to what seemed to be a popular demand of several years’ standing, you repealed at your special session the act creating a state board of railroad commissioners. This leaves the state without any legislation whatever regulating the freight charges by railroads. This, it seems to me, leaves us in an anomalous condition, and surely those of our fellow citizens who are disposed to look with alarm on the “encroachments of corporations” have just not ample ground for the most dismal anticipation. If the carious railroad companies of the state should conclude to double their present freight rates there is no power in the state anywhere to make any tangible resistance. Whether this is a safe and desirable condition to continue is for you to determine. Perhaps no better means has been devised for the regulation of these matters than is furnished by a railroad commission elected by the people or appointed by the governor. NO state officer should be elected by the legislature, for the reason that the vicious system of “log rolling” by which pernicious measures are often carried through on the strength of meritorious one, is quite apt to appear in the combinations always made in the effort to score the success of some particular candidate; and when a mistake is make in this manner it is impossible to fix the responsibility. When a mistake is fixed upon the shoulders of ninety different men it is not fixed at all in the sense that it is any relief to the aggrieved party. No governor, it is thought, that appoint a man to a position of trust unless he believed, at leas, that he was eminently fitted for it --- competent and trustworthy. Frequently the man selected by the legislature for an important position, through the scramble of caucuses and joint conventions, is purely an accident, not intended seriously by anybody. I have known such instances and so have you.
Assuming that every citizen concedes the necessity of some kind of state control of railroads, it follows that this can only be done by either a railroad commission of a fixed law, which, when passed, must necessarily stand for two years, whether found to be just or not. A cast majority of the states have found the best method of accomplishing this end to be by means of a railroad commission. This is so, for the reason that different lines of railroads are surrounded by environments altogether dissimilar, and a general and fixed schedule of rates for all lines, which must necessarily stand for two years when once enacted, often results in absolute injustice. The justification of a railroad commission rests on the fact that an injustice on the part either of the state or a railroad company can be rectified at any time. It would be too much to assume that a committee appointed by yourselves could bring in a bill for the regulation of freight rates on all the lines of Oregon, with only a short time in which to study the details of the question involved, that would be at all adequate to the end in view. The regulation of freight rates have become one of the great questions of the time, and the interests of both shippers and the railroad companies are so vast, carried and vital that it is found to be necessary to lodge the power to accomplish this purpose in some tribunal where the adjustment of differences and the rectification of mistakes can be exerted every day, if necessary. Even in the state of Kansas, where the political party which makes the very loudest protestations of devotion to the interests of the common people has been in power for several years, no proposition has been made to abolish its railroad commission. In view, however, of your action on this matter at the special session, I do not feel disposed to urge you to re-enact a law providing for a railroad commission, although it is very doubtful if you discover any other method of regulating the question which would be as satisfactory to all parties interested. One commissioner, with a clerk, with fair salaries, who could give their entire time to a study of the question involved, could, and no doubt would, work for the best interest of the people and the railroad companies. As it is, we have neither a railroad commission not a freight law of any kind, --- a condition that, perhaps can be found in not other state in the union. IN demanding the repeal of the railroad commission the people have seemed to demand no substitute, and it may be their wish to try the experiment of allowing the railways to transact their business without any legal control. It is doubtful, however, if this is a safe condition to continue.
It is well known that our supreme court, although, perhaps working harder than nay other body of officials in the state, is so far behind with its business that the constitutional guarantee that justice shall be administered “without delay” has been rendered practically inoperative. I think there is no difference of opinion as to the correctness of this statement. Every consideration not only suggests but demands a remedy. Several solutions of the difficulty have been offered but none is so feasible and direct and without the appearance of subterfuge as the addition of two justices to the number no composing the supreme court. The objection to this plan in that it is of doubtful constitutionality has been in a measure removed by the rope of a committee of the Oregon bar association appointed to examine into the question. This committee is composed of several of the most eminent lawyers in the state and their expressed opinion is that such a law would be in perfect harmony with the constitution. This opinion is concurred in, as I understand, by most of the survivors of the convention which framed the constitution, and if, in your opinion, their decision in the matter is worthy of your consideration I would urge the passage of a law increasing the number of the supreme judges to five. There is no doubt whatever as to the necessity of the relief referred to, and if the constitutional objection heretofore urged to an increase of the number of judges is removed, it is without doubt a much better solution of the question than the establishment of a commissioner’s court. In any event the relief asked for should be granted in some form during the present session.
Few questions demand more serious consideration at your hands than the enactment of some system that will give our people better roads. Good roads are not only the arteries of commerce but the affect the very vitality of the business interest of the entire state, and especially of the country districts. That they are profitable, pleasant and necessary is not questioned by anybody. No one feature of any country gives it a more creditable reputation than a system of good roads, and perhaps no country needs it more than Oregon. The fact that we are blessed with a climate that is a perpetual guarantee against drought, makes it certain that we will always have bad roads until we overcome them by systematic legislation. This we have never had, not has any serious attempt ever been made in that direction. Surely, there is no reason why this matter would be further postponed.
Our present road laws, taken as a whole, amount to a mere travesty on the object for which they were intended. They are the result of haphazard, patchwork legislation from session to session, usually amendatory of previous acts that were themselves mere apologies for existing conditions. There is ample justification for the statement that, with exceptions so few as to be unworthy of mention, the average country roads in our state are in no better condition than they were 30 years ago. There are many roads in Oregon that have been traveled regularly for more than 30 years through thickly settled communities and that have never been so nearly impossible as during the last year. This discouraging condition is wholly attributable to the absence of an intelligent application of the efforts put forth for their improvement. If all the road work in Oregon during this period had been applied to their systematic draining, grading and top-dressing with gravel or crushed rock we would today have as good a system of roads as any state in the union. The amount of human energy absolutely thrown away is prodigious, but in no instance, perhaps, more inexcusable so than in the matter of alleged work in our roads.
While our people are a unit as to the necessity and desirability of better roads, it is not possible to bring about that condition until our present system is wholly revolutionized and our road taxes carte collected the same as other taxes, to be disbursed under the intelligent supervision of some competent person authorized by each county to look after the roads of that county. The experience of a generation should be sufficient to convince the most hopeful that even another generation of our present haphazard method would give us no improvement whatever, After all these years we should be satisfied that the system of “working” roads is a dismal failure, and adopt a system that contemplates the building of roads. I believe our people are public spirited enough to welcome a law imposing a moderate levy for road taxes if attended by an ironclad provision that would secure its economical and effective application to our roads. This should be attended by a provision encouraging the use of v road tired wagons and discouraging the use of narrow tires after a specified time in the future. In France, as well as in some other countries, many wagons no used have tires five inches wide, and with the hind axle some wider than the from one, a heavily loaded wagon traveling the road is a positive benefit to it. We will never emerge from our present condition of deplorable have roads until some legislature goes far enough at one stride to leave permanently in the rear the mockery that binds us now.
Unless some steps are taken to protect our native and game birds from the wholesale and indiscriminate slaughter that has been their fate for the last year or two, the time is not far distant when they will be practically exterminated. It is surely no pleasure to the humane and enlightened sportsman to be permitted to continue this practice when the certain result will be the ultimate destruction of game birds altogether. The native grouse and pheasants which in past years have been the pride of our state are rapidly disappearing before the merciless onslaught of thoughtless hunters, while that king of game birds, the Mongolian pheasant, which granters the hunter by scorning to seek shelter in the protecting woods, has been diminished in number by at least 50 per cent. within the last two years. It would seem that the better judgment of those who engage in the sport of hunting would restrain them from such a destructive practice. A law should be passed at this session prohibiting the killing of game birds for any purpose whatever during the next year and every other year thereafter for a specified period. This is simply a question about which there can be no two opinions among those who have given any attention to the subject, and it is your duty to enact some measure that will prevent the further destruction of these desirable denizens of our forests, fields and pastures.
CONVEYING CRIMINALS TO THE CAPITAL
Perhaps the greatest single abuse that has fastened itself to the administration of our state laws is the unreasonable expense of conveying insane patients and criminals to the state capital. Repeated efforts have been made by former governors to have some legislative action on this question, but without avail. If you adjourn this session without securing this much-needed reform, you will be justly charged with a flagrant dereliction of duty. This service should be done by employees of the penitentiary or of the asylum, both because it would cost far less and would be performed by persons whose experience especially qualifies them for it. Many sheriffs have boasted that the compensation secured from these frequent visits to the capital pays the entire expense of their offices, leaving their salaries clear profit. Under this system it now costs between $8 and $10 to take a prisoner from the Marion county courthouse to the prison, while an attendant from that institution could do the same work for 15 cents. Instances are known where a sheriff from a distant county has brought a prisoner to the capital without any help whatever, and, after arriving at Salem, hiring a guard, to proceed to the prison, where he was presented to the authorities as having traveled the entire distance, and the state paid the bill. The alleged guard was employed less than an hour and his compensation by the sheriff probably not more than $1. To merely call your attention to this outrageous abuse ought to insure its eradication, and it can be easily done within the next fifteen days. One of the worst features, however, of the present system is the inhumanity, not to say indecency, of requiring sheriffs to convey female patients to the asylum. Public morality revolts against the requirement, and no one should be permitted to have charge of these unfortunates but trained attendants from the asylum. This requirement should not under any circumstances be overlooked, and since public morals and the public purse unite in demanding the reformation outlines, I trust you will not neglect a duty that seems so imperative.
STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Last monthly there was organized at Portland a state historical society, duly incorporated, whose object is to collect and preserve valuable historical information concerning the early settlement and later history of the state. Its intention is to unite its work with that of the university of Oregon, and since its membership will consist of hundreds of the leading citizens of the state, whose motives in the matter are whole unselfish, the prosecution of its hour should receive a reasonable assistance at your hands. This has been done by other states with excellent effect.
THE OFFICE OF STATE PRINTER
For many years the cost of our state printing has been out of all proportion to what a due regard for economy would dictate. The tares allowed for that work are the same as when the cost of printing was nearly if not unite double what it is now. The tax payers of the state have a perfect right to advantages accruing from the improved methods of printing, and this unnecessary extravagance should be stopped at once by providing a reasonable salary for the state printer and a plant owned by the state with which to do the work. So man legislatures have had their attention called to his matter only to be passed over without any consideration whatever, that any further attempt in that direction seems useless; but the first bill on the calendar should be one to effect this possible and needful saving of public money. The law should take effect at the expiration of the term of the present state printer, and surely its passage would not be opposed by a single vote.
For general information relating to the condition of the state and its affairs you are specially referred to the message of ay distinguished predecessor who has just completed a four years’ service in a successful effort to maintain the credit and good name of the state. The reports of the different heads of the departments are on you desks and will be of aid to you in an intelligent disposition of the questions coming before you for consideration. You have met at a time in the history of Oregon, when, as never before, our people should be thankful to Divine Providence for the continued blessings of health and an abundance of the earth’s products, and for the renewed one of comparative contentment among all classes. We have just passed through a gigantic and successful war with a foreign power, a war forced upon us by the persistent commission of brutalities against humanity and civilization; and yet, so strong is our government, so wonderful our resources and so patriotic our people that not a single interest within our national domain was crippled no and industry adversely affected.
In the general improvement in all lines of business which has blessed the people of the United States during the last two years no state has enjoyed a larger share than has ours. Under these circumstances you are assembled to inquire tint the condition of the state, and it would seem to be an opportune time to follow the adage “Let well enough alone.” Although there are instances where additional saving can be attained in the public service, our state government has, in the main, been economically administered. If the burden of taxation resting on our people through the support of our county and municipal governments could be removed, the weight of the state government would be scarcely felt, and although tax levies are higher or lower from year to year as unavoidable expenses or improvement make the variation necessary, the average rate has been within the lines of practical economy. There are some wholly unnecessary extravagancies to which I have called your attention and which it is your duty to overcome.
In these closing years of the nineteenth century, Oregon occupies an eminence for which her people look back ward with a feeling of pardonable pride and forward with a hope that is abundantly justified by the lessons of history. Through the changing years of a well-rounded half century, the sturdy pioneers who first wrested this magnificent domain from the control of the savages and environments of the wilderness have steadily builder a commonwealth on the enduring foundation of honest conservatism. Compared with many other states, serious legislative excesses are unknown to us, and although we have had many protracted and even bitter political contests, no mercenary scandals have ever smirched the fair name of our state. Our people are wedded to the three virtues of industry, economy and sobriety. They have repeatedly declared themselves in favor of (and never against) the proposition that no dollar is too good for the working classes of this country. Our our-spoken declaration on this question last year, in advance of any other state, placed our credit and reputation second to that of no sister in the great galaxy of the American commonwealths.
Through the passing of the years, the keeping and control of this cherished inheritance has come to you and to me and to our fellow citizens --- the children and successors of the honored pioneers who are rapidly passing away. They looked no further westward than the eastern shores of the great Pacific, the murmur of whose waves is in our hearing; bur recent events, which seem to have been shaped by the and of Providence, are turning our attention still further westward until we easily see the first glimpse of an oriental trade that beckons us onward with a promise that guarantees us many years of increasing prosperity. Oregon is the natural gateway for the larger share of this great commercial movement that will involve the trade of two hemispheres. With the construction of the Nicaragua canal our trade relations will be established with every quarter of the glove and the great resources of our state will be apparent, appreciated and profitable.
Those of us who, for a short period, will be the guardians of great public interests will, in a measure, be held responsible for the maintenance of favorable conditions so far as our public actions may affect them. The power is delegated to us is in the nature of a sacred trust, and I feel sure of you unselfish co-operation in an earnest effort to promote the welfare of a worthy people whose confidence we share and whose interests are ours.
T. T. GEER.