Yes on Measure 30

Measure 30 is asking a lot of Oregonians. The ballots mailed to voters today seek $800 million in taxes to sustain schools and other public services.

It asks for new taxes at a tough time for many families and businesses. Yet the burden would be broadly shared. The typical Oregonian would pay about $81 a year in additional taxes if Measure 30 is approved, according to an analysis by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Measure 30 asks voters to recognize that a truly sound economy is built not only on low taxes, but also on reliable public services, accessible health care and well-funded schools. If voters reject this measure, this state will cut at least $338 million from schools, and strip health insurance away from thousands of working families, children and low-income pregnant women.

Oregon will not attract new jobs or grow stronger and more vibrant by prematurely closing its schools or laying off teachers. This state will not help small business by depriving the poor of health insurance, shifting costs and driving up medical expenses for everyone.

Measure 30 asks Oregonians to make modest individual sacrifices for the much greater good of the entire state. It asks people without children to accept responsibility to help maintain a strong school system. It asks people with health coverage to understand that the cost of their own insurance will rise if 85,000 fellow Oregonians lose theirs.

Yes, this measure is asking a lot. It even asks voters to put some faith and trust in their elected representatives, and to recognize that state legislators and Gov. Ted Kulongoski have tightened government’s belt. They already have cut services, ordered a wage freeze for state employees and reformed the public pension system, saving billions of tax dollars. State government is not without waste, but it is more efficient now that it has been in decades.

Lawmakers spent more than eight months in Salem last year, the longest session in history. A large bipartisan majority of lawmakers finally concluded that the tax plan that is now Measure 30 is the most responsible way for this state to protect its core public services.

Voters now must decide whether to believe their elected leaders, or buy the arguments of the assortment of antitax activists, conservative Republicans, Libertarians and Constitution Party members who gathered the signatures to bring Measure 30 to the ballot.

Do antitax groups really know what’s best for seniors, or should older voters join AARP, Save our Seniors and Elders in Action in support of Measure 30? Does Citizens for a Sound Economy, which led the referendum, know more about what’s good for business than the Oregon Business Association, Nike, PGE and many other companies that support the tax plan?

Measure 30 asks voters to see Oregon taxes and spending for what they are, not what they were years ago. It asks people to realize that even conservative organizations such as the Tax Foundation report that the state and local tax burden in Oregon is low, not high, compared with other states.

The issue is not what Oregon spent on schools or other services in 1998. This is about today, when Oregon spending on schools has fallen below the national average, and ranks 31st among states.

Measure 30 asks voters in Multnomah County and other communities that have approved local taxes to protect schools to see that they — and their state — will be better off with the state tax plan. With anticipated refunds if Measure 30 is approved, about two-thirds of Multnomah County taxpayers actually would pay lower taxes overall if the state plan passes.

Twenty-seven other states recently have raised either sales or income taxes to support crucial public services. No matter what you hear, Oregon has no realistic “Plan B” if this tax measure fails. The Legislature can tinker around the margins, but in the end it will have to cut these services or borrow money to pay for them, foisting the costs on our children and endangering the state’s credit rating.

Measure 30 is about ensuring a full school year to every child. It is about providing adequate public safety, funding state police forensics labs and keeping inmates in jails for their full sentences. It is about providing at least minimal care for vulnerable elderly people, children and pregnant women.

That is not too much to ask. The Oregonian urges a yes vote on Measure 30.