(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Jason Hachmuth is a firefighter with Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue.)
As a firefighter/paramedic with the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, I am deeply concerned about the harm Measures 41 and 48 will do to the safety of our communities.
If you were in a fire or a car accident, you would rely on firefighters, state police and investigators to protect you. Ballot Measures 41 and 48 will cut funding for state troopers and local first responders, harming Oregon's ability to respond to emergencies and to keep our communities safe.
Oregon already has fewer state troopers on the road per capita than any other state in the country. If Measure 41 passes we could lose 18 more troopers. If measure 48 had been in place since 1990, we would have lost 83 troopers on top of what's already been cut over the last decades. If these measures pass, law enforcement agencies won't be able to adequately address meth trafficking around the state.
Measure 41 will cut $800 million from next year's budget cycle. Over 90 percent of the general fund goes to fund education, health care and public safety - the services we rely on most. Measure 41 is a direct hit to the general fund and would cut $120 million from public safety budgets.
Measure 48 would insert a flawed formula into Oregon's Constitution. It would cut at least $2.2 billion from the 2007-2009 budget and is so poorly written and confusing that it may even be retroactive. It's based on a measure that devastated Colorado so badly that Coloradans suspended it last year. Measure 48 is even worse because it wouldn't allow for immediate access to funding for emergencies.
Imagine if Oregon were to experience an earthquake, flood, tsunami or disease outbreak. If Measure 48 became law, the hurdle to free up emergency resources is almost insurmountable. Measure 48 requires a two-thirds vote of both branches of the Legislature before it even goes to the people for a vote - a process that could take months. In the meantime, the health and well-being of Oregonians is at risk.
The proponents offer reassurance - saying that if Oregon experiences a large-scale emergency, we can rely on the federal government for help. The very idea that supporters of Measure 48 think that FEMA will take care of us shows just how out of touch they are.
These measures would also cut health care programs, which would further affect our ability to respond to emergencies. Under measures 41 and 48, seniors may lose prescription drug and health care coverage. When seniors and families loose their access to preventative medicine and go without health care, they often end up calling 911 or going to an emergency room for treatment. This is a huge burden on the emergency system, and taxpayers end up paying the cost.
Measure 41 and measure 48 are being pushed by individuals who wouldn't have to deal with these kinds of emergencies, because they don't live here. Both measures have been funded by out-of-state special interests. Measure 41 has been bankrolled by Loren Parks, a Nevada billionaire. Measure 48 is being pushed by Howard Rich, a New York developer who has given nearly $1 million to the campaign.
I believe that Oregonians should not let out-of-state individuals make our state less safe. For the future of Oregon, I hope you will join me in voting 'no' on ballot measures 41 and 48.