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District 26 candidate switches stance on Measure 97

PHOTO: GEOFF PURSINGER - Ray Lister, a Democratic candidate for House District 26 has come out in opposition to Oregon's Measure 97. Lister, who lives in Wilsonville, had previously supported the measure, calling it 'absolutely needed' for the state.A Democratic legislative candidate has come out against Measure 97, despite having supported the measure's message in the past.

Speaking at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum in Aloha on Monday, Oct. 24, Ray Lister, an electrician running for House District 26,said that he could not support Measure 97, a controversial ballot measure which would add a 2.5 percent tax on certain businesses with more than $25 million in gross sales.

Lister, who lives in Wilsonville, is running against Republican opponent Rich Vial for the seat. Both spoke at Monday's Public Affair Forum ahead of the Nov. 8 General Election.

Lister has never publically come out in support of the measure, but has previously spoken in favor of Measure 97 when he began campaigning for the seat, saying if the measure fails with voters the Legislature will have to make hard choices about how it funds state programs. Money raised by the tax would go toward healthcare, senior services and public education.

“Revenue from something like (Measure) 97 is absolutely needed, and if it passes I plan on fixing the holes that will negatively impact certain sectors ... if it fails I will work to ensure we can get something similar passed that does not have said holes,” Lister told the website Voter411.org earlier this year.

But on Monday, Lister said that after researching the issue more, he has decided to oppose it.

“This was drafted as a political solution, not a fair and equitable tax policy,” he told the crowd. “… This was developed through public opinion polls and without regard to its effect on the economy, on low incomes or seniors on a fixed income.”

Measure 97 is the most expensive ballot measure in state history, with an estimated $35 million raised in support and opposition.

“Complicated policies like this shouldn’t be done at the ballot box,” Lister said. “They shouldn’t lend themselves to ‘Take it or leave it,’ ‘yes or no’ questions.”

House District 26 is a far-reaching district that stretches from southern Hillsboro south to Bull Mountain and Sherwood and east to Wilsonville. The district is made up largely of rural, unincorporated Washington and Clackamas counties, but the candidates have said local farmers could be affected by the measure.

Lister is racing against Vial to replace John Davis for the seat. Davis is not seeking re-election.

Lister said he had hoped to focus his attention on local issues facing District 26, such as transportation and land use, but that Measure 97 has overshadowed other issues in the state.

“This is the big issue in this election,” he said.

Despite his opposition to the measure, Lister said the state needs to find a long-term solutions for stable school funding, something proponents of Measure 97 have said the money could go to support.

“I’m committed to making sure that we have the revenue to fund the services that Oregon cares about,” he said. “Regardless of what happens with that ballot measure we’ll need someone at the table who can work with the leadership caucus to make sure we get these things done.”

At Monday's meeting of the Washington County Public Affairs Forum, attendents also heard from candidates for Beaverton’s District 34 and Tigard’s District 35.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8

Editor's Note: This story originally claimed that Ray Lister supported Measure 97. Lister has never taken a public position on the measure, but has spoken in favor of the measure's message and intentions during his campaign

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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