PHOTO/TIMOTHY J. GONZALEZ
Russ Walker (center), chief petitioner for Measure 30, and Angela Wilhelms (right), campaign manager, react to the first vote tally on the income tax measure Tuesday in Wilsonville. Measure 30 was rejected by Oregon voters in the vote by mail election.
Voters sent a clear message to lawmakers Tuesday: Lower our taxes.
Oregonians easily overturned the state Legislature’s $1.2 billion tax increase, rejecting the tax referendum by a 3-to-2 margin.
Measure 30 fared poorly throughout the state, including Marion and Polk counties, losing worse than a smaller tax increase a year ago.
“I think it’s a clear message from taxpayers and voters that No. 1, they don’t believe government is spending its money efficiently,” said Russ Walker, leader of the opposition campaign, “and No. 2, they sent a message last year and they think it was ignored.”
Walker’s group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, now will seek more controls over the growth of state government, he said.
The failure of Measure 30 triggers $545 million in automatic budget cuts on May 1, heavily targeting public schools, the state health plan for the poor and state crime labs. Additional across-the-board cuts might be required later if state tax collections don’t rebound in the coming months.
Legislative leaders and Gov. Ted Kulongoski might tinker with some of the planned cuts at an April session of the Legislative Emergency Board, known as the E-Board.
However, the governor and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, oppose calling a special legislative session for lawmakers to redo the entire state budget.
“I think the next step is you have to try to make some adjustments where you can in areas like human-services and public safety,” Courtney said. “All the education ones, to schools and colleges, I’m sure will stay and be implemented.”
Kulongoski plans to deliver a detailed response to Measure 30’s defeat today.
“Although I was a strong supporter of Measure 30, the voters have spoken — and I have heard them,” Kulongoski said in a written statement Tuesday night. “I am dedicated to ensuring that we engage in a thorough and thoughtful process to responsibly manage this budget gap and move the state forward.”
House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, called on Kulongoski to use his executive power to prevent some of the more harmful cuts to human services. “There’s some flexibility there,” she said. “We can manage some of this in the E-Board.”
Minnis said Republicans may challenge the proposal by state human services director Jean Thorne to redeploy some senior services funding to preserve some benefits under the Oregon Health Plan.
Measure 30 would have raised personal income taxes for three years, reduced an elderly medical-care tax break, raised the corporate minimum tax, delayed or ended some business tax breaks, extended an existing cigarette tax and cut the discount for advance payment of property taxes.
The ballot measure began as a tax-increase package passed by the 2003 Legislature. Lawmakers slashed worker pensions, froze employee pay and made some spending reductions. But they couldn’t muster the votes to cut deep enough into state services and schools to balance the budget.
A group of Republicans bolted from party leaders and helped craft a bipartisan $1.2 billion tax-raising plan.
That balanced the 2003-05 budget and provided a cushion for the next budget cycle in 2005-07.
As soon as the tax package was signed by Kulongoski, anti-tax forces mounted a signature-gathering drive to place the tax increase package before voters. Led by Citizens for a Sound Economy, they gathered more than twice the required number of signatures in less than three months.
From the beginning, polls showed Oregonians were unlikely to vote to raise their own taxes. That dampened fundraising by supporters and opponents of Measure 30. Neither side bought television ads, putting much of their effort into mobilizing core supporters to vote.
Multnomah County’s approval last year of its own temporary income tax hike clearly cut into support for Measure 30, said leaders of both sides of the campaign. The sickly Oregon economy also made people more wary of raising taxes.
“I think all Oregonians are getting tired of these seemingly endless funding crises,” said Morgan Allen, campaign manager for the Yes on 30 campaign.
The decisive defeat of Measure 30 could lower expectations for a planned special legislative session in June to consider tax reform. It’s not clear if the results will affect labor unions’ plans for several tax-raising initiatives on the November 2004 ballot.
“I think it’s too soon to tell,” said Leslie Frane, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 503, the largest state workers union.
Other consequences of Tuesday’s vote:
# Defeat of Measure 30 takes away $800 million used to balance the $11.7 billion discretionary funds budget adopted by the Legislature for 2003-05. That wipes out nearly 10 percent of discretionary spending available between May and the end of the budget cycle ending July 2005. Additional federal funds will be lost because the state won’t be able to provide matching money for some health care and other human services.
# Public schools will lose at least $299 million in state aid. Added across-the-board cuts could bump that to $338 million, or the equivalent of $503 per student next school year.
# The state expects to drop health insurance for nearly 50,000 low-income people on the Oregon Health Plan. Coverage might be scaled back for about 150,000 other adults, children and pregnant women on the health plan.
# Community colleges and universities will lose some money, likely forcing up tuition. State crime labs could lose more than half their staff. County jails will lose a hefty chunk of money to house low-level felons, perhaps shifting those inmates to state prisons. Plans to re-open youth detention facilities in Warrenton and Burns might be put off.
# Defeating Measure 30 enhances Citizens for a Sound Economy’s role as new leader of Oregon’s anti-tax movement. That group now has a list of 170,000 people who signed petitions to get Measure 30 on the ballot, said Chuck Adams, a Republican political consultant who worked to defeat the measure.
“There’s 50,000 pages” of petitions, Adams said — enough people to thwart tax hikes for the next decade.
Returns by county
Here are the latest, unofficial returns from Oregon by county in the voting on the Measure 30.
County Yes No
Baker 1,678 4,347
Benton 16,281 13,303
Clackamas 32,885 63,042
Clatsop 5,242 7,189
Columbia 5,052 11,327
Coos 8,040 15,071
Crook 1,646 5,131
Curry 3,377 5,502
Deschutes 16,483 30,443
Douglas 10,635 27,551
Gilliam 417 463
Grant 767 2,236
Harney 1,002 1,876
Hood River 3,051 3,330
Jackson 29,813 34,494
Jefferson 1,663 3,671
Josephine 12,583 15,977
Klamath 5,098 9,574
Lake 891 1,896
Lane 58,220 60,019
Lincoln 7,160 8,964
Linn 10,317 23,439
Malheur 2,263 4,719
Marion 36,402 50,251
Morrow 1,095 1,699
Multnomah 83,477 105,046
Polk 10,789 12,669
Sherman 327 501
Tillamook 3,649 5,796
Umatilla 6,434 9,688
Union 3,725 4,769
Wallowa 1,224 1,947
Wasco 3,445 4,864
Washington 38,859 63,368
Wheeler 202 491
Yamhill 9,473 17,975
Totals 433,665 632,628
The statewide percentage was 59 percent no, 41 percent yes.
— The Associated Press