The ballots that arrived in mailboxes the past few days ask voters to make dozens of choices about everything from candidates to school funding to green spaces.

While all of these decisions are significant to someone, very few are monumental enough to alter the immediate and long-term prospects of our community and state. In trying to separate the vital issues from the merely important ones, we'd suggest that four ballot measures rise quickly to the top.

Two of those are state Ballot Measures 41 and 48, which if passed in tandem will do more to govern Oregon in the future than any individual elected to office.

Measure 41 would give state taxpayers the option of taking the same personal income-tax deduction as they do on their federal return, instead of the current state tax credit. The result, in addition to modest savings for most taxpayers, would be that the state would have $385 million less to spend in the 2007-09 biennium. What's more troubling is the measure's retroactive nature, which means school districts might have to cut spending immediately - in the amount of millions of dollars between now and the end of the school year.

Measure 48 is a state spending cap that not only would limit government expenditures, but also hamper Oregon's ability to invest in better schools, roads and health care.

Our opposition to these two measures is based on the belief that Oregonians have done enough through initiatives of the past two decades to limit taxation and spending. Further restrictions will push Oregon well beyond frugal and into a perpetual state of under-investment.

The opportunity to build for the future, however, also is present on the Nov. 7 ballot, and that brings us to the two measures most important for sustaining East County's livability for the long run. One of those, Measure 26-83, would authorize $58.8 million in capital bonds for Mt. Hood Community College. This bond levy is necessary to protect the community's original investment in the 37-year-old campus and to maintain the college as a viable engine for East County's economy.

Another issue in urgent need of passage is Ballot Measure 26-88, which would allow the Reynolds School District to issue $115 million in bonds. Among other things, these bonds will allow the district to accommodate rapidly increasing enrollment and also bring three 80-year-old schools up to date.

These four issues deserve high priority for voter consideration, but the most important action any citizen can take is simply participating in this election. People may be discouraged by negative advertising and the national political climate, but there are reasons to vote - the greatest of which is the long-term health of this state and community.

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