Measures: pot, casino, and, as always, taxes


   Voters in Oregon can nearly always count on interesting statewide ballot measures. This year didn't disappoint.
   We have money issues, wildlife issues and, with marijuana and casino measures, I guess some wild life issues.
   Our measures start a tad boring, then heat up. Measure 77 alters how the state can establish a state of emergency. (Did I mention starting a tad boring?) Measure 78 allows some minor alterations and typo fixes in the state constitution. Although I am very prodigious at creating typos, I like to see them corrected. I'm voting yes.
   Let's jump ahead to the wildlife issue. Measure 81 would ban gillnet fishing in Oregon. That's an easy one to vote no on for a couple reasons. Topping the list is the fact that Washington fishermen won't be impacted and will be able to fish the targeted sections of the river. Stands to reason that, if this passed, several Oregon fishermen would move and become Washington fishermen. Not good for the economy. I'm voting no.
   Now for wild life. Measure 80 is a marijuana initiative, creating a pot commission to oversee commercial aspects, and allowing personal use and cultivation.
   Proponents contend it will raise $140 million in tax revenue, and save an additional $40 million in law enforcement. Certainly there are strong economic reasons for fence-sitters to back something like this. But will those points win the day against strong moral and social reasons to remain steadfastly against the concept? I doubt it.
   But, the public does seem to be opening to the concept of more decriminalizing of marijuana. A September poll of 700 Oregon voters showed 37 percent for it, and 41 percent against, with the remainder essentially undecided.
   But there are strong, valid reasons to not rush to decriminalize marijuana. Those points will be well framed by experts in the law enforcement and drug treatment fields at the forum to be held in Madras -- the Statewide Marijuana Summit -- on Oct. 18. No one should be under the assumption that decriminalizing won't lead to more abuse.
   The libertarian in me wants to try the economic and social experiment of decriminalization, but I don't know if society is ready for that, and I doubt Oregon's voters are either.
   Apparently, though, we're more comfortable with free range pot consumption than we are are casinos, something else that can damage lives yet bring in a ton of revenue.
   More wild life: Measures 82 and 83 would allow private casinos in Oregon (82) and allow the construction of one in Wood Village (83). We have likely all seen the ads: the Grange would be hotel-theater-casino entertainment complex -- the centerpiece being the casino. It would create 2,000 jobs and provide an estimated $100 million to the state. Those proceeds would go the state's lottery fund with other parcels going toward education and job growth programs.
   It's opponents' advertising refers to the project as the "Grunge" and note that the development company's other casinos have been dens of unlawful activity --though I don't know if that company's (Clairvest Group, of Toronto, Canada) casinos are any more troublesome than other casinos.
   Opponents also suggest that the casino would likely draw money away from the state's Native American-owned casinos and existing lottery outlets, and would not largely be "new money" to the state's economy. Probably all true, to an extent.
   There are plenty of social negatives with casinos and gambling, but those will remain whether or not the Wood Village project is built. While it would vastly impact the potential of a casino on I-84 near Cascade Locks (the Warm Springs Nation's long-term casino hopes), I don't think it would much hurt the Indian Head facility in Warm Springs. No doubt a Portland-area casino would impact the profitability of Chinook Winds and Spirit Mountain, but I imagine they would remain profitable regardless.
   I'll likely join the minority and vote for these two measures -- though I hardly expect either to pass. Gambling is here to stay, and I'm open to the concept of more states using it to better help meet their budgetary requirements.
   It can't be a ballot measure season in Oregon without tax issues.
   Anti-tax people have a couple measures to champion. Measure 79 bans state real estate transfer taxation, and No. 84 phases out state inheritance taxes, which are currently only administered to estates totaling more than $1 million. If you vote for essentially all tax-reducing suggestions, you'll likely vote yes for these two. If you're discerning about voting on tax issues, I'm not sure these two demand yes votes. I'm voting no, not seeing any intense need to change the status quo.
   No. 85 seeks to keep corporations' kicker tax refunds, when they exist, with the money going to help fund K-12 education. Personally, I don't think we should mess with the "kicker" program -- where the state refunds a specific amount of taxes paid when revenues surpass projections by 2 percent or more -- at this time of economic uncertainty. Better funding education is important, but targeting corporations in such a manner seems a bit unfair.