By Tom Civiletti of Oak Grove, Oregon. Tom says he's "a progressive Democratic activist who isn't afraid to disagree with his friends."
Oregonians love to cut taxes. We've passed two property tax limitations since 1990 and enshrined the income tax kicker in the Oregon Constitution. With all the problems these have caused for government services, there has been little effort to repeal them.
This November Oregonians will vote on Measure 48, a limit on state budget growth usually referred to as a Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, or TABOR, although supporters have inaccurately labeled it a 'Rainy Day Amendment.' Opponents like to point out that Colorado voters have suspended the TABOR law they passed in 1992. This reversal is usually ascribed to voters realizing how destructive the budget limitation had become, but this ignores powerful political forces at work in the state.
There were widespread changes to Colorado's political climate created by the passage of Amendment 27 in the 2002 elections. Amendment 27 is a set of reforms similar to the Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47 that Oregonians will vote on starting in a few days.
In the 2004 general election, both houses of the Colorado Legislature switched from Republican to Democratic control; the first time in 30 years that Democrats had majorities in both chambers. That's right. Unlike scary predictions by progressive Fair Elections opponents, comprehensive contribution limits led to Democratic control of the Legislature in Colorado. The legislature then passed a referendum to suspend TABOR for five years, which the voters approved.
There may have been another, more difficult to document change that campaign finance reform created. The decrease in money coming from business groups to conservative candidates - who would have used it to run political ads about cutting taxes, shrinking government, and privatizing services - may have changed the political buzz in Colorado, making voters less distrustful of government and more willing to fund services. This may have made them more likely to vote to suspend TABOR.
So, if you want to see education, environmental protection, social services, and public infrastructure well funded in Oregon, Colorado's experience suggests that you should vote 'yes' on Fair Elections Measures 46 & 47.