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After the Oregon Ballot Count: Now What?

January 28, 2010

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon voters have decided the highest-earning taxpayers and corporations should pay a larger share of their incomes to shore up the state budget. While labor unions were the top financial contributors to the successful "yes" campaign, Leslie Frane, executive director of SEIU Local 503, believes it was individuals' door-to-door and phone bank efforts that made the difference. And, she says, volunteer canvassers got an earful.

"We heard a high level of anxiety about the economy, and also a great deal of anger at corporate special interests, whom voters hold responsible for the Wall Street meltdown and the impact that has had on unemployment, on home foreclosures, on underemployment."

Some have painted the battle as Republicans versus Democrats. But Michael Anderson, executive director of the Oregon Opportunity Network, says there is a simpler message that transcends politics.

"What Oregon voters said is, 'This stuff matters to us.' This isn't about one party or another - this is about, if you are serving the Oregon people, the message is clear. We value our public structures and we need to pay for them."

The money to be raised is already figured into the Oregon budget. So, when lawmakers begin their special session next week, some programs and services that would have been cut will be spared. At the Oregon Education Association, Vice President Hannah Vaandering says it doesn't fix the state's longer-term budget problems, but it's a start.

"Our legislative leaders deserve a lot of credit for this. They enacted these two changes in our tax code, and what Oregonians said is, they believe in what our legislative leaders have done, and they would like to see Oregon move forward."

The state says about 97 percent of Oregon households will see no effect on their taxes, and 97 percent of businesses will pay at the same tax rates they did last year.

Joyce DeMonnin, AARP Oregon's director of public outreach, says the state has a responsibility to provide a basic safety net for seniors, children, and the unemployed.

"We need to preserve services in the state, and the Legislature, who we elect, felt this was a fair way to do it. More than 250 organizations came together, working on this. It was a bipartisan effort, and it was a grassroots effort."

And, just when Oregon voters might have assumed the ballot campaign antics and expenditures were over, 78 petitions have already been filed with the Secretary of State's office, for new potential ballot measures for November.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR