Two former Oregon governors, one a Democrat and one a Republican, joined together Monday to support a temporary tax increase that voters will consider this February.
Former Govs. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, and Vic Atiyeh, a Republican, said that social services, health care and education will suffer if the increase, known as Measure 30, is defeated.
Measure 30 is the $800 million revenue package designed to balance the state budget and avoid further cuts to education, human services and public safety. It will go to voters on Feb. 3.
Kitzhaber said over 85,000 Oregonians will lose insurance coverage under the Oregon Health Plan if the measure is defeated. If the measure fails, he said, there will be more stories like that of Charles Schmidt who was cut off from the medication he was receiving under the Oregon Health Plan. Schmidt had a seizure and eventually died.
The Oregon Health Plan, which Kitzhaber has championed since its beginning in 1994, was an effort to expand the state Medicaid program to include more poor residents.
Kitzhaber also said there has been no serious discussion of the ramifications for public education should Measure 30 fail.
“Education is at the heart of the workforce and at the heart of a vibrant economy,” Kitzhaber said.
Atiyeh said he understood the pain and agony of deciding what and where to cut, but pointed out that Measure 30 got support from both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature. Atiyeh added that both he and Kitzhaber came to the conclusion to support Measure 30 on their own.
Polls have shown that the majority of Oregonians oppose the tax increase.
The campaign against it is being led by the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for a Sound Economy, a largely business-supported group that advocates for tax cuts and less government.
Russ Walker, the Oregon director for the group, has said lawmakers had other options for dealing with budget holes caused by declining tax revenue, such as adding new Lottery games, squeezing more savings out of the public employee pension system and borrowing through bonds.