The Dalles Chronicle Editorial Board met Friday afternoon to weigh in on the seven ballot measures that voters will either approve or reject in the Nov. 8 election. Here are our endorsements:
By a vote of 4-3, the board opposed Measure 94, which seeks to amend the constitution to lift the current age limit of state judges, who now face mandatory retirement in the calendar year they turn 75.
The Legislature referred M94 to the voters with the recommendation for a “yes” vote out of the belief that no other elected officials in state government were held to the age restriction, which amounted to discrimination.
Because the U.S. Constitution sets forth no specific requirements for judges, the majority of the board felt it was appropriate to follow suit at the state level. If the judge meets fitness standards then he or she should be able to continue service until he or she chooses to step down.
On the other side of the issue, dissenters on the board felt that judges making decisions that affect people’s lives, sometimes forever, had to be sharper in thought and discernment than other officials and those qualities tend to fall away with advanced age.
Although the majority of the board did not believe investments by public universities should be regulated by the state constitution because policies should be set by the Legislature, Measure 95 was endorsed by a 6-1 vote.
The rationale behind our support was that public colleges were at a disadvantage with private institutions, which had more autonomy to fundraise. Passage of the measure would even the playing field by allowing public universities to invest in equities to reduce financial risk and increase funds available to help students.
“Colleges need more than they are ever going to get from the state,” said one board member.
The lone vote against the measure was cast because there was nothing in the language that would mandate that tuition would go down if more revenue was realized from investments.
Amending the constitution so that 1.5 percent of state lottery net proceeds would be dedicated to supporting services for Oregon veterans gained support from six board members.
What’s not to like about making sure the 350,000 veterans in the state receive the care they deserve? We agree with the Legislature, which unanimously referred M96 to the voters, that Oregonians have a duty to stop veterans from falling through the cracks of the state safety net.
The measure has no impact on the constitutionally dedicated amounts of lottery funds for education, parks and natural resources, so the majority believed there was nothing to lose and everything to gain from its passage.
The sole vote cast against the measure was based on a belief that program funding should rightfully be addressed by the Legislature. Also, this individual was philosophically opposed to the state depending upon lottery revenue to pay for essential services.
The board voted 6-1 in opposition to Measure 97, which seeks to impose a 2.5 percent tax on gross sales of corporations when sales exceed $25 million.
The lone advocate felt the new tax would address long-standing budget shortfalls facing state education and healthcare programs. In addition, the measure would hold big corporations accountable for paying their fair share in taxes.
The majority were against the measure out of the belief it is poorly crafted and funding disbursement of about $3 billion per year would be left up to the Legislature, so would not necessary go where promised.
Even more importantly, we were concerned the tax on gross receipts would harm Mid-Columbia Producers, Oregon Cherry Growers and other agricultural cooperatives, as well as area farmers.
Most farm families operate on very thin profit margins and M97 would tax total sales before deductions, as well as increase costs for electricity, equipment and fuel.
A study by the nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office revealed most of this tax would be paid by consumers in the form of high prices on everything from food and gasoline to medicine and utilities.
“M97 essentially amounts to a hidden sales tax,” said one board member, gaining broad agreement that such a large tax hike needed to be fully vetted for unintended consequences before being voted upon.
Our board felt the Legislature needed to come up with a workable plan to present to voters at a later date that would be more balanced.
A reluctant but unanimous “no” was given by the board to Measure 98 because it directs the Legislature to find what about $800 per student in K-12 schools to pay for career and technical training. The funding would also open up access to more college-level courses and boost dropout prevention efforts.
The board supports an exapansion of these programs because many high school students will opt out of college and need to be trained to find full-time jobs.
However, because the measure doesn’t impose any new taxes, the Legislature could be forced to cut other programs to come up with roughly $290.6 million in each biennial state budget.
That could create a hardship during times when the state budget is not healthy. Although the state expects to collect about $1.5 billion in additional revenue in 2017-19, economists say the state could be short of covering current service levels because expenses are increasing.
There are some big pension bills coming due and costs to cover health care expansion are spiking.
Oregon’s economy has a shortfall of skilled workers and we believe the Legislature needs to take a hard look at what can be done to bring more vocational programs into schools.
The board felt Measure 99 was well-intentioned by dedicating lottery dollars to an “Outdoor School Education Fund,” for fifth and sixth-grade student programs, but didn’t meet the mark because it is a “want, not a need.”
The measure shifts about $22 million per year to the new fund, which would be administered by Oregon State University.
Withdrawals from the lottery fund would not be allowed to reduce monies dedicated to the restoration and preservation of parks, beaches, watersheds and native fish and wildlife, say proponents.
The board unanimously opposed this measure because there are more practical needs for this funding.
Currently, 57 percent of lottery dollars are dedicated toward education and 27 percent for job creation. There are needs aplenty in both areas that could use more of an investment before outdoor programs. Our belief was that outdoor schools could be established by communities willing to fundraise if the program is deemed important enough.
The board voted against Measure 100 by a 5-2 margin, with the majority believing that federal laws and treaties already block the buying and selling of endangered animal parts across the country.
The measure was proposed by a coalition of conservation groups and elected officials who wanted to protect exotic species from poachers.
The two votes support were cast because existing Oregon law prohibits only the sale of shark fins.
The measure targets wildlife trafficking by banning body parts or products from lions, elephants, rhinos, whales, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, sea turtles, sharks or rays and other animals.
The problem with M100, said the majority, is that legal hunts of exotic animals are allowed by very strict laws at a higher level of government. A state law was unlikely to stop poachers but could target people who import legally hunted trophies, and musicians and gun owners whose instruments and antique guns contain ivory.