Measure 48What is it?

This is the latest of Oregon ballot measures that attempts to restrict state spending. Measure 5 of 1990 cut property taxes and shifted the property tax burden from business to individuals. That was followed in 1996 by Measure 47 (retooled as Measure 50), which froze certain inequities into the property tax system.

While Measures 5 and 47 reduced tax revenues, this measure does not limit tax revenues, it sets a spending cap.

Where did it come from?

Don McIntire, who authored Measure 5, is a front man for Measure 48. But the true author is Howard Rich, a wealthy New Yorker who wants to press his conservative spending theories on Oregon. Rich and his organization, FreedomWorks, have given more than $1 million to put this measure on the ballot and promote it.

What would it do?

Measure 48 is a constitutional amendment. It would link the growth of state government spending to an index based on inflation plus population growth. If tax revenues exceeded the mandated level of growth, the money would be set aside. During an emergency, the governor may request an override of this measure, but 60 percent of the House and Senate would have to agree.

The proponents also advertise this measure as a rainy day fund. But the measure itself contains no specific creation of a rainy day fund.

Reality check:

After 16 years of diminished opportunity for Oregon public school students, Measure 48 would create another round of cuts. It would also stifle any hope that Oregon colleges and universities could regain ground that was lost during 16 years of disinvestment. Any hope that the ranks of the Oregon state Police would be restored would vanish.

This measure and its companion - Measure 41 - are the most destructive and dangerous proposals on the ballot.

The plot line of Measure 48 is an outcome which the Progressives of the 1900s had no way of predicting. Those Progressives could not foresee that within 100 years the initiative process would become an industry, and that Oregon would become the target of a national predator such as the wealthy New York ideologue Howard Rich.

The state of Colorado went down a road that was quite similar to the direction Rich maps out for Oregon in Measure 48. After 13 years of decline under their spending limit, Coloradans repealed it.

Simplicity is one of the goals of taxation and appropriations. Measure 48 would add one more layer of complexity to the process of setting funding priorities.

Recommendation: No.

Oregon is emerging from a deep recession. There is a slender opportunity to reinvest in schools and universities, which are the key to the future of the state and our children. There is also a slim opportunity to rebuild the Oregon State Police, which have taken major cuts in the past decade. The same is true for our highway and bridge infrastructure, which is aging and in need of replacement.

If Measure 48 were enacted, any thought of reinvestment would be dashed. Moreover, this measure's complexity will throw our public process into a new state of disarray.

Oregon needs Measure 48 like it needs another recession.

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