Yes on Measure 28

January 09, 2003 11:00 pm

The odds are against Measure 28.

But you can make your own luck, and proponents are working hard to make the case for a "Yes" vote on the temporary tax increase.

They have a tough road ahead.

Stacked against them is the mounting knowledge about the PERS debacle, which hurts local and state government budgets alike.

Then there's the recent audit of the Oregon Lottery, and the secretary of state's findings of $800,000 in inappropriate spending.

These aren't necessarily the reasons why Oregon's budget is in crisis. They are signs that the state is moving to eliminate or reform inefficient or even unnecessary spending that went unnoticed during the high-flying economic boom of the 1990s.

Today, Oregon and dozens of other states are reeling from a decline in tax revenues due to the ailing stock market and less than robust economy, a trend that doesn't change the rising cost of providing services.

And since Oregonians are hostile to taxes — and not just those of the new variety, but existing ones — we've now done away with our means to adequately fund our public services.

The top tax rate provided for in Measure 28 is lower than the beginning tax rate in 1981, when the legislature imposed a temporary increase during a recession.

Meanwhile, property tax limitations and the absence of a state sales tax have driven the state to rely more and more on unsavory sources of funding, like the Oregon Lottery, as well as highly volatile revenue streams like the income tax.

In other words, no boom and we're bust.

Measure 28 restores some of the state's taxing ability for just three years in hopes that not only will the economy turn around, but the weight of the crisis will more keenly focus attention on how the economy of state spending can be maximized.

That is why we urge you to vote "Yes."

Sure, we bristle when we hear the prognostications of doom from Measure 28 supporters. It sounds too much like crying wolf to say people with mental illnesses and drug addictions will be turned out on the streets to fend for themselves at the same time police are taken off the streets and teachers out of the classrooms.

The pleas are so pitiful they come across to some as insincere. Proponents have suggested people will die if Measure 28 fails.

That feels like extortion, and that instinctively makes us want to vote "No."

But consider, for a moment, that it will be bad.

No one has presented an argument why further weakening Oregon's human services, education and law enforcement infrastructure during a recession will improve the economy.

Maybe that is why groups like the Oregon Business Association are standing behind Measure 28. You can't attract and retain new businesses to a state with lackluster schools. You can't maintain a healthy workforce if drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment are insufficient.

Measure 28 won't leave the state flush with cash. Nor will it bankrupt taxpayers, most of whom face a $50 or less annual increase in their state taxes.

But in Baker County, heavily dependent on state employment and state services, Measure 28 will undoubtedly make a difference.

Please join us in voting "Yes" on Measure 28.