Four politicos sat center stage--two for the measure, two against. In the middle stood moderator Jake Oken-Berg, the 19-year-old upstart (now 23) who challenged Vera Katz for the mayor's seat four years ago.
On Tuesday, February 3, ballots are due for Measure 30. (VOTE YES, VOTE YES, VOTE YES.) $800 million is at stake. This past session, the state legislature was forced to find enough funding to cover a variety of programs. Measure 30 would enact a self-imposed state income tax increase. For a $30,000 annual salary, for example, the increase will amount to roughly $35 a year.
The exact financial numbers are stark: Currently, the state lacks $285 million for K-12 education; $180 million for health care; and $58 million for public safety programs. If Measure 30 fails, half the staff at the state's crime lab will be cut. The shortfall for health care, say Measure 30 proponents, will effectively wipe out what remains of the Oregon Health Plan. Medical coverage for 50,000 poverty-level adults will be terminated.
Moreover, proponents point out that a budget shortfall and subsequent program cuts will set in motion a downward spiral. Without services and infrastructure, it's unlikely the state will be very attractive to new businesses.
Last year, a similar voter initiative, Measure 28, sought a self-imposed property tax to help finance jails, parks, and schools. Statewide, that measure narrowly failed. In response, Multnomah County hurriedly drafted a countywide measure, which passed. That one-time property tax levy managed to provide funds for jails and parks.
At the Thursday evening Disjecta event, Richard Burke, Executive Director for Oregon's Libertarian Party, laid out an argument against the measure. To angry rumbles within the crowd, Burke gave the Libertarians' party line that the government should impose itself as little as possible, even when financing for the sick, elderly, and needy are at stake. "If we need coercion to make people be compassionate," he argued, "how civilized can we be?"
For now, screw civilization. VOTE YES! PHIL BUSSE