Group to change its tax petition

The Associated Press

September 28, 2003

The group that is leading the effort to repeal the Legislature’s $800 million tax increase temporarily suspended its signature-gathering efforts this weekend.

Citizens for a Sound Economy said Saturday that it would hold off on collecting more signatures for a few days while it sends new petition sheets to activists throughout the state to replace ones now in use.

The action is intended to avoid legal challenges by a union-backed watchdog group that says the original petition sheets were deficient because they didn’t contain a description of the tax measure.

Although the delay is a setback for the referendum campaign, sponsors predicted that they will be able to round up the needed 50,000 signatures by Nov. 25 to force a Feb. 3 election on the tax increase.

“We’re still in the game. We will meet the signature requirements,” said Russ Walker, Oregon director of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

The decision to temporarily halt signature gathering came after Walker met Saturday with state Elections Director John Lindback to discuss complaints about the original petition sheets.

The Voter Education Project, a union-backed group, said the petitions initially circulated by activists listed only technical information and did not inform voters about the tax package.

Lindback said state officials don’t agree with that conclusion, but he suggested that the referendum sponsors circulate new petitions that contain a description of the tax plan.

“We don’t think a judge would throw out the signatures based just on that issue, but we can’t guarantee that,” the elections chief said. “So we advised them it might be a good idea to get new petition sheets.”

Walker agreed, and he urged those who already have collected signatures on the old petition sheets to send them in to his organization’s office.

He said the group hopes to be able to collect all of the signatures it needs on the new petitions but that some of the signatures on the old sheets might be submitted to the state if the need arises.

Walker also said he was disappointed by the delay because this was supposed to have been a big weekend for the signature drive.