February 24th, 2011 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Schools, Politics, Legislature, Environment

Battle Over Oregon Lottery Funds Intensifies; OEA Eyes Jackpot

Oregon State Capitol.Oregon's Capitol Building

 

Yesterday, WW reported that serious differences of opinion have arisen over Ballot Measure 76, the measure approved last year by state voters to dedicate 15 percent of Oregon Lottery proceeds (more than $80 million annually) permanently to wildlife habitat and parks.

The Nature Conservancy, which provided most of the measure's $1.4 million bankroll, is now waffling on a previous agreement to refer several changes to the measure to the May ballot. The Nature Conservancy had signed an Aug. 3, 2010 memo along with the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the Trust for Public Lands agreeing to refer changes to the measure to the 2011 ballot.

In a Feb. 23 email, OLCV executive director Jon Isaacs says that unlike the Nature Conservancy, OLCV is OLCV sticking to that deal it made last year. And Isaacs warns of the prospect that the Nature Conservancy's actions could prompt an all-out war between environmental and education groups. Here's that email:


From: Jon Isaacs
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2011 16:51:04 -0800
To: [recipients redacted]
Subject: OLCV involvement with HJR 29

Dear Colleagues,


I’m writing to let you know that unless specifically asked by the Co-Speaker or their staffs, OLCV/I will no longer be involved with HJR 29 [the bill containing fixes for Measure 76] negotiations.  I’ve informed all those who were party to the original agreement that from my perspective HJR 29 is consistent with the original agreement – especially in the absence of any other credible proposal to meet point #1 to those proposed to this point.  Seeing that there’s nothing left for OLCV to negotiate, I don’t see how our involvement makes any difference from this point forward.  We hear at OLCV must dedicate all of our time and energy to the Oregon Conservation Network priorities the rest of the session.       

 

I have participated in this since last summer with two goals in mind –

 

1.       Ensure the success of Measure 76.

2.       Make sure that OLCV participates in good faith in accordance with the agreement.

 

I have been assured by the legislators involved, in the committee hearing yesterday and by the current House Leadership that #2 has been met.  While goal #1 has been met for the time being, I remain concerned it may be undone by a 2012 measure to dedicate lottery funds which would “trump” BM 76.  I’ve expressed that concern to all of you both softly and strenuously, and at this point I don’t see anything else I or OLCV can do to prevent that from happening beyond what we have already done.

 

Lastly, based on conversations I had following yesterday’s hearing, I see that great damage has been done to relationships that the conservation community has with many Legislators – a few who have been some of our greatest champions the past few sessions.  I think that is tremendously unfortunate and none of us really know what that means – especially in a session where every relationship matters so much.

 

As I told the Eugene Register Guard today, I remain optimistic that HJR 29, ultimately, will be successful.   And as I said, if the Co-Speakers or their staffs request that OLCV help out in any way we will be ready to do so.

 

Sincerely,

 

-Jon-

The import of what Isaacs is saying is this: the Oregon Education Association, which represents nearly 50,000 Oregon teachers, and its allies are considering various revenue-raising possibilities. One of those is a ballot measure that would dedicate effectively all Oregon Lottery funds to education, including those currently earmarked for other uses such as the 15 percent set aside for parks and wildlife. That's what Isaacs is talking about in this sentence, according to Salem sources.

I remain concerned [the success of Measure 76] may be undone by a 2012 measure to dedicate lottery funds which would “trump” BM 76.  I’ve expressed that concern to all of you both softly and strenuously, and at this point I don’t see anything else I or OLCV can do to prevent that from happening beyond what we have already done.


Currently, the Oregon Lottery proceeds (about $1.3 billion in the current biennium) are split as follows: education, including higher ed gets 61 percent; economic development gets 23 percent; parks and wildlife 15 percent and problem gamblers, a measly 1 percent.

If OEA and its allies—who were not crazy about Measure 76 in the first place—get sufficiently angry about the flap over whether and what to refer to the May ballot, things could really get messy. Isaacs and OEA lobbyist BethAnne Darby did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Isaacs says in discussions with the Nature Conservancy and others prior to the 2010 election, OEA raised the possibility of pursuing Lottery funds as a way to augment school funding. Those discussions resulted in OEA agreeing not to oppose Measure 76, provided changes subsequently got made by legislative referral.

"OEA put a state-wide ballot measure on the table last year," Isaacs told WW. "I said then I think a bidding war for Lottery dollars is a bad idea and I still think that's the case."




 
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