Guest opinion by Art Buck: If measures 66 and 67 fail, Oregon's education system will collapse, as California's has.
Everyone attending an Oregon school, or with a child or grandchild in school, knows that the schools are on the verge of collapse because of underfunding. This year students are suffering fewer teachers, huge class sizes, fewer class choices, fewer teaching days and elimination of activities and sports. If measures 66 and 67 fail, Oregon's education system will collapse, as California's has. And for the same reason: because citizens refuse to support taxes, no matter what disaster that might cause.
We live in a representative democracy in which we elect our legislators and governor and send them to Salem to manage our state's affairs. The legislators, with our governor's approval, have solved the fiscal crisis as best they could to fund our schools, from K through university, as well as to fund law enforcement, the courts and social services. Their solution is two tax measures which only tax ultra-high income people and very large corporations.
These taxes are not severe. Families with taxable incomes above $250,000 pay a supplemental $2,000 for each $100,000 earned above $250,000. The corporate tax is raised from $10 to $150. The AARP estimates that 88 percent of Oregon corporations will pay only this minimum amount. A corporation must gross over $500,000 before it has to pay any further taxes, which are only 0.1 percent of revenues over that amount: $100 per $100,000 additional revenue.
In other words, these are small tax increases when spread out over all Oregon corporations and high-income individuals. These revenues will qualify Oregon to receive millions of dollars in matching federal funds. Additionally, state income tax is eliminated on the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits. Overall, these new taxes still make Oregon the fifth-lowest state for corporate taxes. Without them, we have the second-lowest corporate taxes. It is untrue that passage of these measures will lead to a collapse of the businesses in Oregon and massive unemployment. Completely untrue.
Can we let our elected leaders alone to do their work? Apparently not. We have to second-guess their best efforts with an initiative and vote to approve or disapprove of their solutions. This initiative, by the way, is organized and funded by the Bill Sizemore crowd, who this time around are clever enough to keep his name out of the debate, but it's the same crowd. They would rather destroy our society than pay taxes. They have spent more than $5 million in ads that are misleading at best and mostly flat-out lies. The anti-tax ads are trying to scare us that the sky will fall if these relatively small tax increases are levied on high-income individuals and companies. They say government is wasteful and they want us to "punish government."
But they know that we rubes, if we vote down measures 66 and 67, will be punishing ourselves with a bankrupt school system, bankrupt law enforcement and prisons and elimination of all financial and program help to those who are suffering the worst. It is likely that thousands of teachers and state workers (if you know any of them you know they work diligently) will be fired, adding to unemployment and the erosion of spending power in every community. University enrollments will drop and tuition will rise, as just happened in California. Millions of dollars in matching federal funds will be lost, doubling the damage of losing these revenues. By the way, the anti-tax zealots have no alternative plan. Just, no taxes and let the system fall apart.
Measures 66 and 67 are supported by the League of Women Voters, the AARP, the PTAs, judges' organizations, district attorneys' organizations, the state and local school boards, teachers, a large majority of our Legislature (which passed these measures in the first place), our governor and everyone else who cares about the quality of life in this state. Teachers are walking door-to-door to explain why passage is so crucial. Instead of watching the scary and false TV ads, we should read the voters' pamphlet. Every responsible group in Oregon supports 66 and 67, because they know that if these measures fail, we will be unable to give our students a decent education, police will be fired, prisoners will be released early and every small thing that makes a society worth living in — like parks, clean cities, safety and efficient government services — will be seriously degraded.
Think about who supports measures 66 and 67 and who opposes them. The supporters are trying to keep our society decent and functioning in these difficult times. The opponents are the selfish few who care more about saving a little on taxes than saving our society.
An Ashland resident since 2008, Art Buck has worked as a Peace Corps volunteer, foreign service officer, civil litigator, business attorney and prosecutor. He was the attorney general of Kosrae State, Micronesia, and a prosecutor with the Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. His wife is a retired teacher. Art, his wife and their two adult children are the products of public schools and public universities.