What is it?

The initiative would continue constitutional dedication of 15 percent of lottery proceeds for parks, beaches wildlife habitat and watershed protection beyond 2014.

Under the current constitutional provision, 15 percent of all net lottery proceeds are placed in a Parks and Natural Resources Fund, half for the state parks, beaches, historic sites and recreation areas, and half for restoration and protection of natural resources, including fish and wildlife habitat and protection of watersheds.

Funding would end after 2014 unless voters approve continuation beyond that date. The proposed measure continues 15 percent funding for the same purposes beyond 2014. State agencies receiving money from the Fund are required to use the money only for specified purposes.

The proposed measure also identifies eligible grant recipients and establishes minimum allocation levels of grant funding for local and regional park projects that protect and restore fish and wildlife habitats and protect watersheds

Where did it come from?

Measure 76 is backed by The Nature Conservancy, which provided financial backing to place it on the ballot. In simple terms, it would extend the effects of a 1998 ballot measure indefinitely. That measure - Measure 66 - dedicated 15 percent of Oregon State Lottery funds to parks and wildlife habitat. The set-aside sunsets in 2015, but Measure 66 requires a vote in 2014 that would give Oregonians a chance to extend it.

What it would do:

In essence, Measure 76 simply moves the question forward by four years. If it doesn't pass, however, the 2014 vote will still occur.

Reality check:

It is important to remember that prior to passage of Measure 66, Oregon state parks were languishing in disrepair. In fact, the state was poised to close 65 parks for lack of funding. Since approval of Measure 66, new state parks have been added to the system, and the backlog of deferred maintenance has been eliminated.

Here in Clatsop County one may see one result of adequate funding in the recently refurbished Bradley State Park.

Check the fine print:

As The Oregonian has noted, it is unfortunate that conservation groups have forced this issue at this time. Legislative leaders plan next year to refer to the voters a measure that would divert dedicated funds during economic crises. Conservation groups as well as recreation oganizations and watershed councils that promote Measure 76 have promised not to oppose those amendments.

Recommendation:

Yes. The Oregonian has observed, this ballot measure "goes to the very soul of Oregon." Amen to that.