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There's more on the November ballot than meets the eye Print E-mail

chuck-bennettby Chuck Bennett, Director of Governmental Relations

There’s not much to recommend state ballot measures these days.

During signature collection there always seems to be a scandal involving signature gatherers, the way they’re paid, or both.

After the election, the measures, which most commonly seem to have been written on the back of a napkin, clog the courts, which are charged with figuring out what writers mean by the often convoluted or what seems to be more commonly unconstitutional objectives.

It used to be that you could pretty much count on deciding how to vote on a ballot measure by relying on the “yes means no” theory. Any more the most likely theory is “yes means disaster.”

There are ten initiatives this election. See what you think:

  • Measure 48, commonly called TABOR, puts on a state spending limit tied to population and inflation growth. Estimates are it would cost the state $2.2 billion. That’s on top of the $1.3 billion the kicker amendments now cost.

  • Measure 41 would cut state tax revenues by replacing Oregon’s $165 individual tax credit with the more generous federal personal tax exemption. That cuts state tax collections by about $400 million.

  • Measure 45 re-imposes term limits on legislators, guaranteeing that if the first two measures pass, no one in public office will have a clue how to deal with them.

  • Measure 43 requires written notice from parents before a girl age 15-17 can obtain an abortion.

  • Measure 40 would require that judges elected to the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals be elected from districts rather than statewide. This one suggests there is something regional about how the state constitution applies. And here I thought the big differences regionally were based on rainfall and the type of hat you wore.

  • Measure 42 prohibits insurance companies from using credit scores in setting premiums, assuring that your insurance rates will go up. Imagine a change that wouldn’t.

  • Measure 39 prohibits local government from using eminent domain and turning it over to someone else. Most commonly this is used for urban renewal and economic development purposes.

  • Measures 46 and 47 are trying to limit campaign contributions and expenditures. These have constitutional problems or at least used to under a statewide Supreme Court.

The question for voters is whether Oregon is better off with any of these measures and whether any of them would be better addressed in a legislative session where a complete airing of issues and unintended consequences could be dealt with.

There are big issues at stake in these measures. Privacy, property, public education and the quality of candidates and incumbents we’ll have in two branches of government should not be taken lightly.

Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Michael J. Wood, September 27, 2006
One of the supporting arguments for the TABOR measure, is that schools appear to have adequate funding now. One sees that in small boxes inside articles The Oregonian has presented on the measure. In many ways, by allowing both large and small districts to "fix" some of their problems in the short term by using inventive collaborations with city governments (without requiring them to be considered offsets or local revenue), by allowing districts to borrow against future revenues, and by the fundamental drive of most school districts to continue to serve their children the best that they can by maintaining high profile programs in sports or elsewhere, we have become our own worst enemy in regard to arguing for more revenues

If we don't have it, we must stop finding ways to appear to "have it", in an attempt to keep things settled down. Larger class sizes faze some voters, but not enough, and not across a large enough spectrum. Eliminating high profile, non-mandated programs, such as athletics/outdoor schools/high cost co-curricular programs, etc., will affect a larger number of voters across a much broader spectrum. These cuts should come before the cuts in mandated programs that create the larger class sizes, but they are often a death knell for local superintendents and boards.

The bottom line is that if don't have it, we should truly not have it. Not in the contingency fund, not in co- and extra-curricular funds, not in special partnerships with the cities, not in reserve funds outside of the budget...and we should base our spending upon what the state and local property tax revenues, along with the meager federal dollars we receive. Fund required programs above all else and make the cuts that will be most felt across the largest spectrum possible, and in a coordinated statewide fashion, not just district by district. If we cannot do that, then the naysayers who claim that we have what we need, we just choose unwisely when spending it will continue to win the argument about whether we have enough money to do the jobs they want us to do.

Perhaps it is time for legislative action mandating that all state and local revenues be used for required educational components, then allow local communities and districts to run supplemental property tax levies for the co- and extra-curricular components they wish to have...just a few thoughts.

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This page was last updated on Monday, September 18, 2006 .