2008 initiatives: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly are all there
In 1902, Oregon was identified as being one of the most progressive and politically enlightened states in the nation. That year the Oregon electorate approved a constitutional amendment that created the initiative and referendum system known as the 'Oregon System.' This system allows the people to propose new laws, amend the state constitution, and pass judgment on legislative enactments.
In the upcoming November election there will be eight initiatives on the ballot. If passed, many of these initiatives could have a profound impact on the state. I categorize these initiatives as 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.'
Measure 65 appeals to many but I hesitate to place it in the 'good' category. Measure 65 creates an open primary election in Oregon. The May primary would become a contest among all candidates. The November election would be a run off between the top two primary finishers. In theory the measure will lead to less partisan elections and participation should increase since all voters are able to participate in the primary. Others argue that an open primary would select the final two candidates when voter participation is lower and deny minor political parties any meaningful participation in the process.
Kevin Mannix is the sponsor of the two 'bad' initiatives. Measure 61 is just another one-size-fits-all gimmick that establishes specific prison sentences for some property crimes, without addressing the root cause of most property crime, drug use. In response to M61 the Legislature, along with law enforcement from across the state proposed a better crime measure, Measure 57. In addition to the question of effectiveness, Measure 61 is far more costly than Measure 57, costing between $410 and $485 million per biennium. By comparison, the legislative-referred measure M57 will cost approximately $170 million per biennium.
Measure 62 is another 'bad' measure. This measure would divert 15 percent of lottery proceeds to a new public safety fund. The major concern with this measure is that these funds are already allocated to education and economic development efforts. If enacted the measure could shift more than $200 million a biennium from our public schools. If we care about our children's future we cannot afford the funding shift proposed by Measure 62.
Now we turn to the Sizemore measures. These measures have little if any redeemable value and are unquestionably the 'Ugly.'
Measure 58 prohibits teaching public school students in a language other than English for more than two years. The measure takes away local control, unfairly punishes students with learning disabilities, and is full of unintended consequences.
Measure 59 creates an unlimited deduction for federal income taxes on Oregon income tax returns. This measure would cut funds available for education, public safety and seniors by over $1 billion in the 2009 biennium and $2 billion dollars in the 2011 biennium - all while not providing any meaningful tax relief for over 75 percent of the middle class. Voters have soundly rejected this measure twice before in 2000 and 2006.
Measure 60 establishes a merit pay system for teachers. This measure would create a complex bureaucratic system that would lead to even more standardized testing for students. This measure does nothing to improve student performance and takes away local control from parents, teachers, and principals. Voters rejected a similar measure in 2000.
Measure 63 removes the requirement that property owners receive building permits for improvements valued at or under $35,000 per year. Without these permits there isn't any way to ensure the safety or soundness of these improvements. This measure constitutes a serious threat to real estate values, home owner insurance, environmental protection, public safety, and Oregon's land-use system.
Finally, Measure 64 denies tens of thousands of public employees the ability to make their own decisions about payroll deductions, including those to charitable organizations like United Way. This proposal has been rejected by Oregon voters twice.
The devastating fiscal effects speak for themselves on many of these ballot measures. Others just defy common sense. Many of these ballot measures miss the mark on the original intent of the 'Oregon System' and instead mislead us and tie our hands with high price tags and mandates. I encourage every voter to consider these ballot measures and their long term implications.
Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin, Tualatin, represents Oregon Senate District 19.