Registration deadline is impending for voters

In recent weeks, ASUO has cranked up its perennial voter-registration drive in preparation for the upcoming Feb. 3 special election, wherein voters will decide whether to approve tax hikes that supporters say are essential to state services.

And the Emerald Editorial Board, with the maintenance of your civil responsibilities and empowerment in mind, is reminding you that today is your last day to register to vote in that election.

Measure 30 is a complicated creature with a hefty price tag — the measure seeks to collect some $800 million through various tax increases. The proposed temporary tax changes include a graduated income tax surcharge that will be added to 2003-04 tax liabilities, the rate of which scales with income. Single filers making less than $10,000 annually will pay no additional money; those making over $120,000 will see a 9 percent increase in their state taxes this year. According to the Oregon secretary of state’s Web site at http://www.oregonvotes.org, a family earning $41,000 would pay an additional $36 in income taxes this year.

Opponents of the bill say that tax increases like Measure 30’s are unfair and fly in the face of popular sentiment:

“There were a lot of governors (from various states who) were turning to taxes when that’s not the problem,” Citizens for a Sound Economy spokeswoman Brenna Hapes said in an Oregonian interview. “People don’t want you to raise their taxes. They want you to start spending their money more efficiently.”

But, the measure’s proponents argue, the various costs are not only worth it, but are quite essential to maintain “certain levels of service in public education, senior services, public safety and other areas, and to avoid budget cuts.”

The election is important for many reasons: Most immediately, if voters reject the measure, the state would see $544.6 million in budget cuts for the 2003-05 biennium, as mandated by existing law, including $14.3 million in higher education cuts (which, in turn, includes about $2 million at the University alone).

More broadly, this measure is nationally posed to act as a referendum on the expansion of state taxation, not to mention the anti-tax movement. Some similar efforts in recent memory have failed, including February 2003’s Measure 28, which was rejected by 55 percent of the voters, and a $1.2 billion increase proposed in Alabama last year, which failed by a 2-1 margin.

No matter how you come down on this issue, the important thing is that you register and vote. The Oregon University System has about 82,000 students. The state community college system has thousands more. Across-the-board student voting mobilization would no doubt draw more of Salem’s attention to student voters, granting even more lobbying and legislative power to a group that traditionally hasn’t taken advantage of its numbers in the political realm.

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