Tax backers raise $529,000 in uphill fight

Supporters of the Measure 30 tax hike have raised nearly $530,000 for their campaign to persuade Oregon voters to approve higher taxes to avert state budget cuts.

Meanwhile, tax foes who earlier raised $600,000 for the signature drive that forced the tax election said they have collected less than $200,000 for the campaign — and don’t plan to raise much more than that.

With polls showing the tax hike drawing opposition from a majority of voters, anti-tax leader Russ Walker said, “we’re not going to spend money if we don’t think we need to.”

The two sides reported their latest campaign finance totals as voters mailed in ballots for the Feb. 3 election that will determine the fate of the Legislature’s $800 million tax increase.

Voter rejection of the package would trigger automatic funding cuts for schools, law enforcement and benefits for the elderly and needy.

The Yes on 30 campaign reported raising a total of $529,000 through Jan. 18, and said it has pledges for another $120,000.

“The amount of support we have received from Oregonians who are concerned about our economic recovery and our vital services has been overwhelming,” said Yes on 30 campaign chief Morgan Allen.

The campaign is using much of the money for a statewide radio campaign featuring ads urging listeners to approve Measure 30 as a way to protect schools and other services from damaging budget cuts, Allen said.

Among the largest contributors to the “yes” campaign are the Oregon Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — and the Oregon School Employees Association, which each gave $100,000.

On the other side, the Taxpayer Defense Fund reported receiving contributions of $195,429 for its campaign to date.

That included a contribution of $37,000 from Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Washington-based anti-tax group that led the earlier referendum drive. The campaign received another $30,000 from Wes Lematta and his Aurora-based company, Columbia Helicopters.

Walker said most of the campaign money has gone for highway signs and mailings to voters, but that there are no plans to spend any money on TV or radio ads at this point.

“We don’t want to waste our supporters’ money,” Walker said, referring to recent polls showing the tax facing voter opposition.

In a survey conducted last month by Moore Information, a public opinion research firm in Portland, 49 percent of registered voters said they would vote no and 38 percent they would vote yes.

Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts said he’s seen nothing since then to indicate that the tax measure is gaining support.

“It would take a small-scale political miracle for this to pass,” Hibbitts said in an interview.