SALEM — Oregonians on Tuesday blocked attempts to overturn the state’s sanctuary law and affirmed public funding for reproductive health care, holding onto its status as a socially liberal state.
In so doing, voters rejected socially conservative priorities by large margins.
They also roundly rejected fiscally conservative measures that attempted to restrict tax increases, opening the door for broader tax reform in the 2019 legislative session.
Voters rejected Measure 103, which would have banned taxes on groceries, and turned away Measure 104, which would have required a three-fifths majority vote in the Legislature on certain tax-related measures.
Under that measure, lawmakers — 60 percent in both the state House and Senate — would have had to vote “yes” to approve changes to tax credits, exemptions and deductions, or fee increases.
The liberal coalition Our Oregon claimed that the state in this election defended itself from out-of-state interests.
“By rejecting Measures 103 and 104, Oregonians came together to defend our values from outside special interests who tried to increase their profits at the expense of Oregon families,” Becca Uherbelau, the executive director of Our Oregon, said in a statement. “Voters once again made a statement for all of Oregon’s leaders to hear: we want strong investments in health care and education.”
Proponents of Measure 104 said the measure’s complicated ballot title presented an insurmountable challenge.
“The complicated and confusing ballot title was just too much to overcome,” said Shawn Cleave, government affairs director for the Oregon Association of Realtors, in a statement. “Our coalition will continue to fight to protect important deductions like the mortgage interest and property tax deductions that keep homeownership affordable for many of our friends and neighbors.”
Measure 105 would have overturned a state law that prohibits local police from using resources to apprehend people whose only violation of law is being in the country without legal permission.
Supporters of the measure challenged a law that has been in place since 1987. It was designed to prevent racial profiling by police.
“It reaffirms the feeling that Oregon is a welcoming state,” said Levi Herrera-Lopez, executive director of Mano a Mano, a community organization in Salem that primarily serves Latino families.
Herrera-Lopez joined many Mano a Mano staff knocking on doors urging people to vote “no” on the measure. He said the results validate what they heard from voters on the ground.
“Us immigrants, we’re seen as people who can contribute to the community,” he said. “The rhetorical significance of invaders doesn’t hold ground here in Oregon.”
The measure prompted a divide within the state’s law enforcement community, with 16 largely rural sheriffs — including Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin — supporting the measure. Other officials spoke out against it publicly, including Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese and Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel.
The measure demonstrated the renewed interest in immigration policy under President Donald Trump.
Voters also blocked Measure 106, which was mounted by an anti-abortion group that wanted to ban public funding for most abortions.
Abortion-rights advocates were buoyant about the results.
“Together, we made sure that Oregon voters saw Measure 106 for what it was: a backdoor ban on abortion,” said Grayson Dempsey, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon’s political action committee. “In Oregon, we trust women to make their own decisions — and a right is not a right if you cannot afford to access it.”
Amid a statewide housing crisis, Oregonians also approved a measure that allows local governments to use public bond money for private housing projects.
“Housing is affecting everybody, whether it’s our workers at (Oregon Health & Science University) who are getting priced out of Portland or workers in Pendleton who are worried about finding housing,” said Joe Baessler, political director for Oregon’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents government workers. “It took me by surprise how strongly our members felt about that measure.”
The measure requires local voters’ approval of any such bonds, annual audits and public reporting on how the borrowed funds are spent.
The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group and Salem Reporter.