Measures 66 and 67 on Jan. 26 ballot

Measures 66 and 67 on Jan. 26 ballot

The (Medford) Mail Tribune on the January tax vote (Editorial from Nov. 29 edition)

To say the average American's commitment to good government wanes in December is an understatement. For many, the holiday season is a blur of too many tasks, too much shopping, end-of-the-year vacations, maybe even trips. Government and its nasty half-brother, politics, are put aside while we try to celebrate and survive.

And that could be a problem this year for Oregonians, who will emerge from the holiday haze to find a complicated ballot in their mailboxes.

A Jan. 26 vote will decide the fate of two statewide ballot measures, 66 and 67, as well as hundreds of millions in new taxes approved by the 2009 Legislature. That means vote-by-mail ballots will begin showing up at households as early as Jan. 8, a mere week after 2010 makes its debut.

So here's a pre-New Year's resolution for all of us: Start paying attention now.

That admonition also holds true for the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, which has yet to provide a clear path to information about the vote on its main Web election page, www.oregonvotes.org. Click on "Initiative, Referendum and Referral" at that site and you'll find an Aug. 1, 2008, news release. Hardly a sense of urgency there about a vote that state leaders have said is critical to Oregonians.

It turns out the information is available, but you have to know where to look. From the main election page, click on "Military/Overseas Voters' Guide for January 26, 2010 Special Election." The information on the two measures, well-disguised though it may be, is there.

In short, the two measures would raise money from increases in taxes and fees on businesses and increased taxes on households that make more than $250,000 or individuals who make more than $125,000. If you check out the financial impacts of the two measures on the Web site, you'll see they are expected to initially raise between $335 million and $380 million per year. Of immediate concern to public officials is the estimate that the state budget for the current biennium would be cut by $727 million if the measures fail. That, they say, would lead to big cuts for schools and other essential services.

Opponents of the tax increases, who were successful in gathering enough initiative petition signatures to force the vote, say the taxes will cost tens of thousands of jobs statewide and will unfairly target businesses, forcing some that are not even profitable to pay large increases in taxes.

So who's right? That will ultimately be up to you and other Oregon voters to decide. And there's no time like the present to start doing your homework.

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press)