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Measure would damage Oregon

Ballot Measure 48, which appears on the Nov. 7 ballot, would do far more than restrict growth in state-government spending: It would severely limit Oregon's potential.

We recommend that voters reject Measure 48 and preserve this state's ability to invest in its public schools, universities, health care, economic development and transportation systems.

The measure - authored by Gresham resident Don McIntire, father of 1990's Measure 5 - raises fundamental questions about what we value as Oregonians and whether we want our state to spiral in slow decline or soar to new economic, social and educational heights.

It's our belief that Measure 48, which would limit increases in state spending to an amount equal to the growth in population and inflation, will point us toward mediocrity, not needed improvements. And although some aspects of this measure could help the state achieve greater stability - by forcing the creation of a rainy-day fund, for example - this is not the time for Oregon to further restrict what it invests in essential services.

Taxpayers already well protected

In fact, the trend should be the opposite. Oregon saw its tax revenues plummet during the recession earlier this decade, and it is just now emerging in better economic shape. But even as the state is seeing revenues from income taxes slowly increase, it is struggling to maintain good schools, reduce congestion on its highways, improve its lagging university system and care for citizens most in need.

Measure 48's supporters argue that its formula of population plus inflation will provide sufficient growth in state budgets from biennium to biennium. This logic breaks down, however, when you consider that some categories of government spending will naturally exceed the rate of inflation and overall population growth. Health-care costs, education, prisons and services to the fast-growing senior population will require a greater share of the state budget.

The essential question that voters ought to ask when confronted with this or any other ballot measure is this: Exactly what is the problem we are trying to solve?

Oregonians already are amply protected against runaway government growth. Measure 5 capped their property-tax rates. Measure 50 capped their home assessments. Their state income taxes cannot exceed 9 percent of taxable income. The state has no sales tax, and the kicker law requires the Legislature to rebate surplus tax dollars. No one is getting taxed to death here, so why the push to limit government spending?

This state needs to invest

Voters should realize that Measure 48 would do nothing immediately to reduce taxes. It simply tells the state it can't spend a portion of the money it collects over certain limits. We don't need a ballot measure to arbitrarily set public policy or make investment decisions. Oregonians elect 90 people to the Legislature to decide how much the state ought to expend on schools and other services. There is no reason to place artificial boundaries on legislators' decision-making.

This measure would reduce the funds available in the next biennium by $2.2 billion. That money can best be spent well in our classrooms and prisons, on our roads and university campuses and in facilities that serve the poor and the sick. These treasured public institutions are in need of attention.

By voting no on Measure 48, Oregonians once again can begin to invest in their state.