Tax measure foes protest ballot summary

SALEM – Bickering continues over how the Legislature’s tax increases will be described on the ballot if opponents succeed in forcing an election.

Those against the tax measure have asked Secretary of State Bill Bradbury to reconsider the official ballot summary for the measure. They say the wording, drafted by Attorney General Hardy Myers, should not refer to budget cuts because the bill itself doesn’t make any cuts.

Also, tax foes and a union that supports the taxes both want changes in the proposed explanation that would appear in the state Voters’ Pamphlet should the measure reach the ballot.

Opponents need to collect 50,000 signatures by Nov. 25 to send the tax measure to a Feb. 3 election. Russ Walker, Oregon director of Citizens for a Sound Economy and a leader of the referendum drive, said Monday he’s “very confident” of succeeding.

The measure, which includes a temporary income tax surcharge, would raise about $800 million to balance the current two-year budget.

Pro-tax politicians are “making it a discussion about cuts rather than a discussion of what it really is – Oregon’s largest tax increase,” Walker said. “Taxpayers will see right through it.”

Bradbury spokeswoman Anne Martens said Tuesday that the secretary of state hasn’t decided whether to reconsider the ballot title wording that says passing the tax measure would avoid cuts and that its failure would trigger $544 million in spending reductions.

The tax measure doesn’t specify cuts; a separate budget measure would do that if the higher taxes are rejected. The tax measure does say it’s the Legislature’s intent to “maintain the levels of service that Oregonians expect” of schools and other programs.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, argues that a draft measure explanation for the state Voters’ Pamphlet has too many technical details and not enough information on what happens if the tax increases fail.

The OEA submitted written views to a public hearing Tuesday on the pamphlet statement. A committee including backers and opponents of the tax measure will decide Nov. 6 whether to revise the draft before adopting it.