The Herald's endorsements on state ballot measures

November 03, 2006 12:00 am

Measure 39: Prohibits public body from condemning private real property if intends to convey to private party

Our view: Yes. Urban renewal is desirable, but the idea of forcing people to sell their property to the government, only to have the government sell or give that land to another private individual for development the government approves of, doesn't sound right to us.

Measure 40: Amends constitution: Requires Oregon Supreme Court judges and Court of Appeals judges to be elected by district

Our view: No. Prominent judicial figures in Eastern Oregon, including Judge Greg Baxter, have come out against this measure. While the idea may appeal to rural residents, who are often on the losing end of what appear to be "liberal" court decisions, the reality is that geography has little to do with ideology. Case in point: Gene Hallman, who was knocked out of the race for the Oregon Supreme Court in May, was arguably the most liberal of the three candidates on the ballot. The other two, Virginia Linder and Jack Roberts, hail from the Willamette Valley.

Measure 41: Allows income tax deduction equal to federal exemptions deduction to substitute for state exemption credit

Our view: No. The tax system in Oregon is in dire need of an overhaul, and the Legislature seems bent on ignoring the problem. But patchwork solutions like Measure 41 don't address the root problems with our tax systems — namely, the over-reliance on volatile income taxes and the tendency of government to spend like a drunken sailor on payday.

Measure 42: Prohibits insurance companies from using credit score or "credit worthiness" in calculating rates or premiums

Our view: No. Credit scoring isn't used to cut people from the insurance rolls, only to determine what rate a company is willing to offer the new customer. Insurance is a game of statistics, and if actuaries have found that people with bad credit, just like young men or people who own sports cars capable of excessively dangerous speeds, are a greater risk to insure, then that should be a factor in setting their rates. It might be a scare tactic, but the insurance industry says Measure 42 will drive up rates for 70 percent of us. That's something to take seriously, and this measure should fail by at least that margin.

Measure 43: Requires 48-hour notice to unemancipated minor's parent before providing abortion; authorizes lawsuits, physician discipline

Our view: No. This well-intentioned measure would hurt the most vulnerable girls in trouble. Look at it this way: If learning your daughter was seeking an abortion wouldn't cause a problem in your home, you don't need this measure. She'd seek your help and guidance herself. Our concern is for girls from abusive homes, the ones who are less likely to be willing to go before a judge than submit to shady and illegal procedures to "solve" their problem. Getting a letter in the mail isn't our idea of adequate parental notification in any case.

Measure 44: Allows any Oregon resident without prescription drug coverage to participate in Oregon prescription drug program

Our view: Yes. The only opponent we've found to date is the Libertarian Party of Oregon, which argues cutting drug company profits would harm the competition that creates the cures modern medicine needs. It's a good point, but the real tragedy in the health care realm is the lack of preventative medicine. Once someone needs a drug to heal or even survive, it doesn't make sense to not spread the volume discount to people who lack healthcare coverage.

Measure 45: Amends constitution, limits state legislators: six years as representative, eight years as senator, 14 years in Legislature

Our view: No. Term limits shift the balance of power in the capitol to the lobbyists and state employees and away from our state representatives. Besides, for rural Oregon, the only way to build any real power in Salem is to re-elect incumbents and help them build their seniority. Want to limit an elected representative's term? Vote for their opponent next election.

Measure 46: Amends constitution: Allows laws regulating election contributions, expenditures adopted by initiative or 3/4 of both legislative houses

Our view: No. We, too, bristle at the garbage unregulated campaign spending dumps on voters. But you are free to turn off your TV or ignore the ads you receive in the mail. The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that campaign spending is free speech — and advocates of a robust debate and free expression fear passage of this measure could endanger free speech in other realms.

Measure 47: Revises campaign finance laws: limits or prohibits contributions and expenditures; adds disclosure, new reporting requirements

Our view: No. This measure can only take effect if Measure 46 passes.

Measure 48: Amends constitution: Limits biennial percentage increase in state spending to percentage increase in state population, plus inflation

Our view: No, but not because we don't like the idea of limiting increases in government spending. We were just a few crucial details away from a "Yes" on Measure 48.

Here's why:

It begins by cutting through the alarmist rhetoric of the people who oppose this measure. Measure 48 is not a carbon copy of Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which applied to every level of government and forced government to return all excess revenue. Instead, Measure 48 would limit the increase in government spending to the percent increase in inflation and population. Any excess revenues not subject to the kicker would be retained by the government in a de facto "rainy day" fashion.

This newspaper is on record supporting limits on increasing government spending.

However, Measure 48 would not limit spending in a predictable fashion. And it would not cut your taxes — but it would cut the state budget for the next two years by $2.2 billion, inevitably causing more cuts to education, public safety and health services.

The measure does allow for an increase in spending higher than inflation plus population, but it first requires a 2/3 vote of both houses of the Legislature to refer such increases to the voters.

That's close, but no cigar. The super-majority is a deal-killer: it gives 1/3 of either house veto power over even asking voters to consider increasing state spending.

That, plus considerations for the costs of higher than inflation increases in health care costs and the fact that our population is aging faster than the population growth rate, force us to come down on the "No" side — but just barely. Absent a spending limit, we don't anticipate state government will ever do anything except spend every last dime the law allows.

Thus, the need for a change in the law.