The allure of saving a few tax dollars cannot outweigh the potential harm that ballot Measure 41 would bring to public schools and to services for the poor and elderly.

Oregonians ought to reject this measure, which was brought to the November ballot by perennial initiative author Bill Sizemore, his reclusive moneyman, Loren Parks and a Washington, D.C.-based group called FreedomWorks.

Yet it's the substance of Measure 41, not its source, that is most troubling for those who want to see their state begin to reinvest in its schools, roads, health programs and other public services.

There's no denying that this measure has voter appeal. By linking Oregon's income tax structure more closely to the federal system, the measure 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 typical savings under this measure works out to be about $138 per taxpayer, not a bad chunk of change. The problem, however, is that because income taxes are progressive, the savings would be skewed toward higher-income earners.

For the 20 percent of taxpayers who are at the lowest end of the economic scale, the savings would be about $56 apiece. And the majority of elderly Oregonians would see no tax reduction at all.

So what's the problem with giving middle- and high-income taxpayers a break? As usual, it comes at a cost - in this case, to state services.

The measure would be retroactive, which means that local school districts might have to immediately cut millions of dollars from their budgets for the 2006-07 school year already under way.

Looking toward the 2007-09 biennium, the state would have an estimated $385 million less to spend with Measure 41 than it would without it. And Oregonians would receive $151 million less in kicker rebates in 2007.

Over time, the amount of money being subtracted from the state's general fund would grow to $400 million and beyond. Those dollars would be diverted directly from public schools, health care for the poor, state troopers, prisons and other services vital to everyday life in Oregon.

With many people still hurting from the sluggish economy, this is no time for Oregon to be going backward in its ability to provide essential services.

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