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Friday, October 17, 2008

Schools in their sights

Our quickie coverage of the pending Oregon ballot measures continues today, with two more out of the dozen that are about to go before the voters. That will bring us to 10, and at the risk of having them get lost on the weekend, we'll pick up the last two tomorrow. Word has it that the ballots may be in your hands by then.

The other day, we discussed two right-wing measures aimed directly at the public schools (58 and 60), and we concluded that we would vote against both of them. There's actually a third meanie measure in the pack, although you have to read beyond the title to figure that out. It's Measure 62, which mandates that 15 percent of the proceeds of the lottery be spent on law enforcement. Sounds good at first, but the next question is, Who's currently getting the money that would be dedicated to police and prosecutors if this thing passes? And the answer is, the public schools.

Now, we're old enough to remember when the lottery was first sold to Oregon voters. It was going to be an innocent little Saturday night drawing for Bingo ladies. Now it's this multi-headed behemoth of gambling, with Keno drawings every few minutes, slot machines, video poker, five lotto drawings a week, and many other ways to relieve the stupid and desperate of their money. But hey, it's for the children, right?

Well, now, apparently not. In their ongoing vendetta against the public schools and the teachers' unions, the righties now want to raid the school fund and sell it as a law enforcement initiative. What a time for that move! As the ban on smoking in bars takes effect and the recession digs deeper, lottery revenues certainly aren't going to be growing, and so cutting the schools' take right now seems especially cruel. We'll be casting a negatory vote on 62. If the Law and Order machinery needs more money, the state will just have to take it out of the Convention Center hotel budget.

Speaking of hating the unions, that brings us to Measure 64, an assemblage of vague and confusing legal gobbledy-gook that's apparently intended to stop the public employees' unions from spending members' dues for political causes. Coming from Bill Sizemore, the creepy ballot measure huckster who lives off money that's been donated on a tax-deductible basis to a supposed "charity" set up by an arch-conservative zillionaire in Nevada somewhere, that's a rich one indeed.

We've been around the block three times with initiatives like 64 over the years, and they've gone down every time. This time the entire charitable community is up in arms along with the union leaders. I guess we'll keep seeing these measures as long as the wingnuts want to waste their money putting them on the ballot. The only sensible way to react is to keep voting no.

Comments (12)

Too bad there's not a measure to stop the legislatures sending $250 MILLION in lottery dollars to the Milwaukie light rail and bridge.
Of course our electeds could easily fix that problem in the next session.

But why would they? They get support no matter what they do.

Measure 64 is actually a pretty good idea. There is no reason why the state should be helping the unions collect political funds.

A similar measure in Colorado has gotten the endorsement of all the major newspapers and has a decent chance of passing.

Too bad all we can talk about is Sizemore.

Check out one of the viral ads for M49.


Pancho, it's not about the state helping unions collect political funds. It's about the state--like any other employer--allowing its employees to electronically deposit their paychecks the way they want. And the measure might also stop public employees from participating in charity fund drives. That seems like an awful unintended consequence.

And maybe Sizemore comes up because he wrote the measure and he is really bad at writing ballot measures in a way that aren't ambiguous. Remember, this is the guy who accidentally wrote his property tax-reduction measure so that it INCREASED some people's taxes, forcing the legislature to come in an clean up the mess. Even if you agreed with this measure, you don't want Sizemore writing it.

"And the measure might also stop public employees from participating in charity fund drives."

Oh brother what a typical contrived cannard.

"might"? Yeah sure is they deliberately stopped charity drives.
Of course nothing in this measure would prevent them from continuing any and all fundraising. But public money and mecahinisms would not be allowed. Oh the horror.

This is such an obvious YES vote the "Sizemore" factor is irrelevent.

I mean who do you think keeps the incompetents in office running Portland?
The public employee unions and their public payrolls.
Grass roots? Ha.

I need to correct you commentary. The Lottery was not formed to support education. It was formed specifically to support economic development projects around the state. At the time the state was in such a bad recession that we were seeking infrastructure projects that would stimulate business growth and general economic benefits. Since then everybody has been trying to get their paws on the pot of money and then rationalizing that they too are economic development.

Think everybody is wrong on the original lottery money dedication. At least a major portion, as I recall, was to pay for services for the elderly.
But I am not in a position to research that.

What I recall, and I haven't looked it up, is that the lottery was originally dedicated to economic development. (1984 I think) Schools were added later, I think by referendum, as the shift of school funding from local property tax to state income tax stressed the rest of the state budget, mid to late nineties.

Sue, come to think of it, I believe you're right about that. But it's been "for the children" for a long time.

The lottery passed in November 1984. There were two measures:

Constitutional Amendment Establishes State Lottery, Commission; Profits for Economic Development -- passed, 794,441 to 412,341.

Statutory Provisions for State Operated Lottery if Constitutionally Authorized -- passed, 786,933 to 399,231.

I've corrected the post about the original use of the lottery proceeds.

The lottery passed in 1984 (794,441 "for" to 412,341 "against").

The Oregon constitution states that lottery proceeds are for "the benefit of any of the following public purposes: creating jobs, furthering economic development, financing public education in Oregon or restoring and protecting Oregon’s parks, beaches, watersheds and critical fish and wildlife habitats."

Later, parks and recreation areas and salmon restoration and watershed and wildlife habitat protection were added to the constitution.

Jack beat me to it. (Note to self: Must use preview button.)

Ben, the reason I use the word "might" is that, because it's poorly worded, nobody knows for sure how courts will interpret the measure. That alone is a reason to reject it.

It's not a contrived fear. Charities such as the United Way, the Oregon Humane Society, and the Oregon Food Bank have opposed this measure because they are worried it will prevent public employees from participating in their fundraising via automatic payroll deduction. These are generally apolitical organizations. Yes, these charities could still get money by having public employees write checks, but that is highly inefficient compared to payroll deduction. You don't have to make phone calls or send out envelopes all the time. You just ask once "Hey, would you like to automatically give money to charity each month?"

If you think preventing public employees from making automatic contributions to their unions--and we're going to have to agree to disagree on that--then you should get someone halfway competent to write the measure, so that you can be sure what it will actually do. That competent person might have had the foresight to include language specifically allowing charity fundraising, and that might actually reduce opposition to the measure to the point where it would pass. But I guess Sizemore makes more money the more time his measure is defeated, because he can get political donors to pay him to put the measure on the ballot again.

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