With state government desperate for additional revenue, Oregonians voted for a second time in just over a year Tuesday on a state tax increase.
The stakes were high. If the Measure 30 tax hike is rejected, as last year’s tax plan was, schools and social welfare programs that are still reeling from earlier funding cuts will once again take a big hit.
The Legislature narrowly passed the $800 million tax package last August in a bid to balance the state budget without inflicting even more pain on schools, welfare programs and law enforcement.
Anti-tax groups, led by Citizens for a Sound Economy, had no difficulty collecting enough petition signatures to refer the tax measure to the voters.
The core of Measure 30 is a temporary income tax surcharge. A household with the state’s median $41,000 annual income and filing a joint return would pay about $36 a year more in tax.
Opponents of Measure 30 said Oregonians couldn’t afford more taxes and that raising taxes would hinder economic recovery in a state that has had the nation’s highest jobless rate for much of the past two years.
Backers of the tax said failure of the tax package would be yet another black mark for Oregon and would inflict suffering on some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
On Jan. 28, 2003, Oregon voters rejected a $310 million income tax boost that was intended to balance the previous state budget.
As a result, the school year was shortened, state police troopers were laid off, and thousands of low-income people lost state health plan services.
Voter rejection of the Measure 30 tax package would automatically trigger $544 million in spending cuts
Schools would take the biggest hit — $285 million would come from aid to local schools.
The Oregon Health Plan, which extends health insurance to low-income people who don’t qualify for traditional Medicaid and once was touted as an example for the nation, would lose $182 million.
As a result nearly 50,000 of the state’s “working poor” would lose their state health insurance coverage.