October 15th, 2010 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

What Do Chris Dudley, WW and Tax Fairness Oregon Agree On?

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley has been tough to pin down on some specifics during his initial run for elected office in Oregon. But Dudley has taken an unequivocal position on one issue—Ballot Measure 76, which would write into the state Constitution a current statutory set aside of 15 percent of Oregon Lottery Funds for the purchase of parks and habitat. Dudley told WW in a recent endorsement interview he doesn't like the measure because it ties the Legislature's hands.

We arrived at the same conclusion for different reasons. But few people seem to agree with WW and Dudley against the measure—no individual or group offered a statement in opposition in the Voters' Pamphlet. And insiders say polling shows the measure passing by a wide margin. Before voters fill out their ballots, they should consider the argument below written by Elsa Porter of the group Tax Fairness Oregon, which did excellent work over the past couple of years bringing attention to Oregon's excessively generous Business Energy Tax Credit Program.

MEASURE 76: GREED GOES GREEN

From the Nature Conservancy to local watershed councils, our most respected conservation organizations have succumbed en masse to the widespread greed for Lottery dollars. With Measure 76 they will be constitutionally guaranteed 15% of Lottery funds --forever. It removes the sunset provided in 1998 when Measure 66 gave them millions to fix our then seriously dilapidated state parks. We were to revisit the measure in 2014, to see whether Lottery dollars “were directed to where they are needed to help make Oregon a great place to live.”

Shrewdly, the Trust for Public Lands, which is bankrolling this and other measures nationally, hopes to finesse the sunset by persuading the public to renew and extend the measure this year.

Buried In the small print that most of us never read are additional important changes that tie the funds more firmly than ever to conservation nonprofits at the expense of the state:

• If the Lottery grows, it increases the allocation to parks and natural resources by 5 to 10 percent. But, if the Lottery shrinks they are protected by a clause indexing the growth of the funds to the growth of the state's General Fund. No gambling here!

• It forbids the State Parks Department from using the Lottery grant money to administer grants, forcing it to draw down other programs.

• It directs all grants to nonprofits, excluding state and federal agencies from using these dollars.

Most importantly, the ballot measure limits the legislature's ability to make critical choices about how to use the state's resources in a crisis. It gives the legislature no choice -- for the rest of time we'll continue adding to state lands, buying new picnic tables and restoring streambeds, but our children will use 15, 20, 30 year old science texts, or be without music, arts, and physical education teachers.

Measure 76 earmarks a huge amount of money--$180 million this biennium. This is nearly as much as we put into the Rainy Day Fund each biennium. It is $50 million more than we provide to college kids in Oregon Opportunity Grants to offset outrageously high tuition levels. It's most of what we raised in new taxes on corporations. This is too much to be indifferent about.

Properly concerned, Speaker of the House, Dave Hunt and Representative Jules Bailey initially questioned the measure, especially now when education, health care and public safety are facing drastic cuts. Not to worry, the proponents say. The legislature can fix these “technical” problems by referring them to the public for another vote next year. So a backroom deal was made to ask voters to later soften the impact of the measure on the state in bad economic times. Among the backroom agreements is a sunset clause for 2035, a quarter century from now, the longest in Oregon history.

The “fix” still requires getting the legislature to pass it and the public to approve it—a doubtful, expensive and time consuming proposition. Instead of “fixing” a bad law, we should not pass it in the first place.

Every Oregonian cares deeply about developing our public parks and conserving and protecting our environment. We are all conservationists. The national Conservation Campaign understands this and has framed Measure 76 in a manner that is almost irresistible, until you read the fine print. And think about the idea of making a commitment to these values IN PERPETUITY at the expense of the state's other pressing needs.

Our commitments need thoughtful reassessment in 2014, not knee jerk environmentalism now.

Don't let our greenness become so greedy. Vote NO on Measure 76.
 
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