The Fire Last Time - And A Great Oregonian Editorial From 2003

Steve Novick

I take up my keyboard today to share with you, dear readers, a very poignant editorial written seven years ago by the Oregonian about the defeat of Ballot Measure 28.

Seven years ago the Oregon Legislature did exactly what some of the leaders of the ‘No on 66 and 67’ campaign, including some self-styled business leaders, are now saying the 2009 Legislature should have done. They sent out a temporary, across-the-board tax increase on all Oregonians, and it was defeated. As a result, we cut 50,000 people from the Oregon Health Plan; we told thousands of seniors and people with disabilities that we no longer considered them disabled enough to receive assistance; and schools closed early all around Oregon.

The Oregonian responded with a very poignant editorial, sections of which are reprinted below. The contrasts between this editorial and today’s editorials are quite astonishing. I hope that the Oregonian’s new publisher, as he familiarizes himself with the state’s and his new paper’s history, takes the time to read the 2003 editorial.

Today, the paper has staked its reputation on the hope that the same business groups that oppose Measures 66 and 67 would throw their weight behind some temporary alternative. Seven years ago, the paper observed that Measure 28 received “little or no encouragement from political and business leaders.” (Emphasis added.)

Today, the editorial board suggests that if 66 and 67 are defeated, the Legislature can somehow avoid painful cuts. Seven years ago, the paper said:

“The Legislature must not waste much time refighting last year's budget battles and the Measure 28 cuts … in the end they have no choice but to cut deeply into core services. Oregonians were warned what would be cut if they defeated Measure 28. Honest government requires that the cuts take effect, pretty much as promised.”

Today, the editorial board has taken a stand against the grass-roots network of parents, seniors, teachers, nurses, child care workers, home health care workers and other activists that are supporting Measures 66 and 67. Seven years ago the paper praised the “hundreds of volunteers working phone banks -- and the panicked voices of Oregonians in news stories about to lose their care, shelter or other services provided by the state” for making the result in the Measure 28 vote closer than anyone expected.

There are, of course, a couple of differences between Measures 66 and 67 and Measure 28. Measure 28 was an across-the-board tax increase on middle-class Oregonians, and, being purely temporary, would not, in the long run, have done much to reverse our 20 years of disinvestment in public services. Measures 66 and 67 raise taxes on rich people and corporations, and, being partly permanent, are a step toward reversing that trend. Oh, and Measure 28 lost; Measures 66 and 67 are going to win.

Here are the key passages of that editorial. Read it and weep.


Wednesday,January 29, 2003

Edition: SUNRISE, Section: EDITORIAL, Page B10 Wednesday, January 29, 2003 OREGONIANS MAKE A PAINFUL CHOICE


Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians voted to raise their taxes Tuesday -- even during a recession, even with little or no encouragement from political and business leaders -- to protect schools and other public services.

This voter support for an income tax increase in Oregon wasn't nearly enough to push Measure 28 over the top -- unofficial counts last night showed the measure failing by about 10 percentage points. But the near-record turnout for a special election and the relatively close vote should alter Salem's budget and tax reform debate.

That debate should no longer be about the least that Oregon can do for its public schools, its human services and its public safety. Oregonians didn't vote that way Tuesday.

Yet the budget ax is now going to fall. Most of the burden will land on some of Oregon's most vulnerable -- the mentally ill, the elderly and children …

Oregon Republican Party Chairman Kevin Mannix sent out a taped message to 290,000 Republicans saying that the Legislature didn't really have to cut the budget if Measure 28 failed. As Multnomah County begins releasing inmates, as state police proceed with layoffs, as school districts begin slashing school days, don't sit by your phone waiting for Mannix's next call.

The Legislature must not waste much time refighting last year's budget battles and the Measure 28 cuts … in the end they have no choice but to cut deeply into core services. Oregonians were warned what would be cut if they defeated Measure 28. Honest government requires that the cuts take effect, pretty much as promised.

Even as recently as a month ago, as polls showed Measure 28 with only about 35 percent of the vote, the conventional wisdom was that the measure had no chance of passing. Everything was stacked against it. The timing was awful: Oregon was still locked in recession, suffering from the nation's highest unemployment rate, and the ballots showed up in mailboxes side by side with Christmas bills …

The low-budget campaign for Measure 28 came down to hundreds of volunteers working phone banks -- and the panicked voices of Oregonians in news stories about to lose their care, shelter or other services provided by the state.

Even with all that, a substantial number of Oregonians were willing to have their state become the first in the nation to approve a general tax increase to help offset plunging revenues caused by the national recession. The vote is a positive counter-message to all those people who continually insist that the only way to balance the state budget is to slash services and force Oregon to keep racing to the bottom.

We badly wanted this election to show that change is possible, that Oregonians want something other than the shortest school year in the nation, the highest college tuition in the West or the smallest force of state troopers in modern Oregon history …

Now, in this election, in 2010, we – the supporters of Measures 66 and 67 - are going to show that change is possible. We are going to show that Oregonians don’t want a shorter school year, a shredded social safety net, or further cuts to public safety.

We’re going to fulfill the Oregonian’s dream. It’s too bad we’ll have to do it without the Oregonian.


  • Geoff Ludt (unverified)

    I've heard the internal polls on the "Yes on 66 & 67" have been looking worse lately, true?

  • Harry (unverified)
    <h1>"We’re going to fulfill the Oregonian’s dream. It’s too bad we’ll have to do it without the Oregonian."</h1>

    No you won't.

    You will lose.

    Just like Martha did.

    Even after she proclaimed that she would win.

    When she knew the polls showed her losing.

    So she kept up the facade, even while knowing she was losing.

    It is what losers do.

    When they know they are about to lose.

  • A Conservative Democrat (unverified)

    And then there is the McMinnville school district that sent home yes literature home with kids. This is a bias indoctrination of the programming the kids instead of giving them an objective education, and what takes place in communist countries and countries under dictatorial rule. It is also an illegal to use of public funds to campaign on ballot measures as the school district did. So Steve, maybe you should run right out and make a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office.

  • Ralph (unverified)

    After last night the NO vote will grow. Believe the "internals", defeat is at hand.

  • (Show?)

    Steve Novick wrote "[a}s a result, we cut 50,000 people from the Oregon Health Plan; we told thousands of seniors and people with disabilities that we no longer considered them disabled enough to receive assistance; and schools closed early all around Oregon."

    Curious. What is your evidence/source for those claims?

  • socialjustice (unverified)

    Measure 66 and 67 will pass because voters want to preserve services especially education. Measure 28 failed because people feel as though they are already paying enough in taxes and they are tired of the perceived waste in government such as the BETC tax credits and overly generous healthcare and pension plans that are far better than what is seen in the private sector. The appeal of 66 and 67 is that many voters believe that they are taxing "the other guy" and when the "other guy" is someone who makes more money than them or a faceless business they apparently are willing to vote to raise someone else's taxes. There are certainly many who would be happy to vote to raise their our own taxes, but lets face it, they are a minority. So the playbook is to find a minority group that is unpopular whether it be lottery players, smokers, business owners or the rich and let the majority vote to raise the taxes on the minority. Sure a case can be made why these tax increases are fair and beneficial for the common good but I must admit I would prefer to see everyone's taxes go up and down together. What I find amazing is the negative response in relation to Phil Knights editorial. Phil pays more Oregon taxes than anyone else in the state and is one of our largest employers. Nike and Phil have been great for Oregon in so many ways. Nike helped make Wieden and Kennedy, Adidas decided to locate their North American headquarters here, numerous local suppliers, sponsorships, summer camps , the list goes on and on. The advantage of having large successful companies headquartered here cannot be easily measured but it is HUGE. As we all know Washington has far more. Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, etc. etc. Phil says our tax structure is one reason why people do not want to start and grow businesses in Oregon. I think he knows what he is talking about. Taxes are an expense. Businesses try to minimize expenses to maximize profits. As a business owner I can easily compute my tax burden in different states. For me, Oregon is one of the worst states. It is losing the competition with other states. It is not like our colleges are better that Univ. of Washington or University of Texas. It is not like our infrastructure is all that much better either but our income taxes are dramatically higher so a certain percentage of business owners choose not to locate in this state. It is what it is. Personally, I want businesses here. Losing Nike would be devastating. We are losing the competition amongst States and that lowers the economic opportunity for all Oregonians. The entire tax structure in this state needs to be changed. The question we should ask is what other state has "the best" tax structure for fostering economic growth? The other question we should ask is how do we tax the underground economy so that honest hard working tax paying Oregonians do not have to pay additional money to compensate for the tax cheats, tourists, and non income earning residents that all manage to use our services without paying their fair share of the costs. Phil says 66 and 67 are taking us in the wrong direction. I think he is right. The issue is not whether Oregon needs more tax revenue to provide high quality services. I think it does. The question is how should we raise the revenue and how can we spend it more efficiently. Our ultra progressive tax structure is failing to provide an environment that is conducive to wealth creation and retention. I am sure a sizable minority may benefit from it, but for the majority of us we have a lower standard of living than we would get if we had true reform.

  • (Show?)

    socialjustice: As a business owner I can easily compute my tax burden in different states. For me, Oregon is one of the worst states.

    We have the second lowest business tax rate in the nation. Frikken Utah and Alabama have higher tax rates than we do.

    If the legislature is affirmed in M66 and M67, we'll have the fifth lowest business tax rate in the nation.

    Please don't bulls**t us, okay? It won't work around here. We're informed.

  • (Show?)

    Hibbits just did polling on Jan 14-15 showing the Measures ahead by 10+ points.

    If that's "worse", it's still reasonably sufficient to win.

  • Harry (unverified)

    "If that's "worse", it's still reasonably sufficient to win."

    === "But voters are fickle about taxes, and a lead in the polls can evaporate come election day.

    <h1>“You get almost this invisible suction that comes out of them,” he says.</h1>

    Martha Wins!!!


  • socialjustice (unverified)

    Steve- My business structure is a LLC partnership. All profits and my salary are taxed at Oregon's high income tax rate. Do not try to tell me the rate is low. Measure 66 will raise the rate to, if I am not mistaken, the highest in the nation. So lets add it up. Oregon wants 11% if 66 passes. The city, county, and tri met will want about 2.5% so my marginal state/local tax rate will be 13.5%. If I go to Washington I think their B and O tax is around 1.5% of sales which in my case will equate to maybe 2.5 percent of my income. 13.5% versus 2.5%. Does that sound like a good deal to you? Folks need to understand that someone like me RELATIVE TO LIVING IN OTHER STATES is taxed very, very high. That is a fact. Measure 67 does not directly impact me. Measure 66 does. Many people in my shoes choose not to live her becasue of the taxes and that impacts all of us negatively.

  • socialjustice (unverified)

    I might add that Washington seems to collect about $2700 per resident in taxes versus about $2100 per resident in Oregon. They manage to do this without an income tax. As the vast majority of us spend less than we make (gross) if for no other reason than we pay federal taxes then we would all be far better off taxed on our spending as opposed to our income even if the rates were the same. I would be happy to pay a 9% sales tax as opposed to a 9% income tax and the beauty of such as tax structure is that it captures the underground economy, spenders without Oregon income, tourists, etc and it also seems to be far better for economic growth. I think Washington has a 6.5% sales tax. I call that idea a win/win. Most of us Oregonians will pay less and the State will have more money for better services.

  • (Show?)


    Here is a source. I was one of those teachers who lost days and contact time with my students when the election was lost. There is NO doubt in my mind that this time it will be even worse. If you don't care about education feel free to send a check to reimburse the state that gave YOU a full year of education.

  • JTT (unverified)

    Curious. What is your evidence/source for those claims?

    Dude, Fred...did you even live in Oregon in 2003? Ever read Doonesbury? 18 days off the school year?

    Because I worked in the legislature then, I had to answer calls from people whose parents with Alzheimers had been kicked off OHP and whose children with life threatening conditions had been kicked off OHP because they were "re-evaluated" and could adequately perform certain "activities of daily living". We raised the threshold on certain qualifications for being "disabled" and gave instructions to DHS to cut. We ended the "medically needy" program. Then we got calls from people who were losing their blood pressure medication, their insulin, their antipsychotics, their (fill in the blank-important medication). And all we could do was try to work with these constituents and the "benevolent" prescription drug companies to get them into a free or reduced-cost prescription program. Sometimes we were trying to call drug reps so that these people could get "free samples" to string them over for 2-3 months so that they could at least send in paperwork for these Rx assistance programs. It was mayhem.

    In fact I remember the Oregonian writing a horribly sad and disturbing story about Douglas Schmidt who died after losing his seizure medication after budget cuts due to Measure 28's failure.

    There's your evidence/source, Doug. In fact, I don't think it was 50,000 as Steve says. I believe we hemorrhaged 100,000 Oregonians from OHP between 2003 and 2005.

  • (Show?)

    Steve Novick claims that the failure of Measure 28 in 2003 caused “50,000 people [to be cut] from the Oregon Health Plan; we told thousands of seniors and people with disabilities that we no longer considered them disabled enough to receive assistance; and schools closed early all around Oregon." There is some truth to these claims. In 2003 Legislature cut 10 percent of state school aid, causing 84 of the state's 198 districts to truncate the school year. Six other districts cut days from the year, but not from the end. But it also apparently true that In 2003-04, Oregon’s school districts accrued unrestricted general-fund balances of 15 percent of their annual revenues, or $526 million – nearly two times the cut in state aid. Effective July 2004, OHP halted new enrollments; on August 1 it restored them.

    Most of the cuts threatened if Measure 28 failed evidently did not occur. Why? Because the state borrowed the difference.

  • LT (unverified)

    Harry, do you understand that a + or - error rate means that the poll could be 4 points off either way?

    And the people who already voted won't be swayed by the Mass. result.

    No one I know would change their vote on an Oregon ballot measure based on the results of a New England US Senate election where the better campaigner won.

    And Hibbits does not have a 100% accuracy rate in predicting elections.

  • Oregon Leopard Party (unverified)

    Speaking as a statistician, Hibbits is damn good. He's bookie good.

    JTT brings up a really interesting case for the current HCR bill, that I will post there. The whole Alzheimer's case is one that shows it to be little progress over the status quo.

  • Richard (unverified)

    Come on Steve let's not forget the rest of the tax increases last session which aren't even on the ballot?

    The middle class got hammered with a 6 cents gax increase and registration and title fee increases. It's a 300 million per year tax increase on everyone.

    The 5000 ODOT workers are living large. Along with 1000s of others in related agencies.

  • Robert Harris (unverified)

    Cuts that did happen when M28 failed? Courts.

    Starting about April 2003, courts closed one day per week. Indigent defense money ran out so the state quit prosecuting most misdomeanors and C-Felonies from April through June 30. Remember the car thief who was arrested and released 5 times during that period of time? Remember the Meth epidemic and ID theft scourge that started about that time? Believe you me, the word gets around very quickly that no one is going to jail. The word from the courts this time is that if the measures fail, courts will again close one or two days per week, and indigent defense will run out of money in May. That means only emergency in custody serious crimes will be handled.

    Evictions, don't bother filing. Hope you like non paying tenants. Divorce? try marriage counseling. Personal Injuries claim? I suppose the insurance company could decide to voluntarily pay you....

    But I'm sure that won't ever happen. Its all scare tactics.

  • Oregon Leopard Party (unverified)

    The 5000 ODOT workers are living large.

    Care to swap, Richard?

    At least Robert Harris has a memory.

  • LT (unverified)

    While doing a web search on Hibbits, I found this:

    "Portland's Democrats have become extreme "latte leftists," "pathetic" rich wackos and oddballs, Hibbits tells me."

    And it reminded me of the bitterness of Hibbits on TV. There are people downstate who disdain Portland Democrats and make cracks like DPO stands for Democratic Portland Organization.

    Sometimes Portland Dems are full of themselves. Not all Portland Democrats, but there are lots of people who fit a stereotype, just as there are good legislators from Portland.

    But when a pollster (who lives where?) makes cracks like that instead of just giving numbers, I am not impressed.

  • Robert Harris (unverified)


    Here's what my Sen. Bruce Starr, republican, said about that 6 cent per gallon gas tax.

    "These are tax increases that don’t grow government. These are tax increases that grow the private sector, that grow the economy, that lay the foundation from which we can come back as this economy recovers.”


    Sen. Starr is the transportation ramrod for Republicans. This tax falls largely on everyone across the board of course (since businesses will pass it on to their customers, right?) With the benefits, according to Bruce Starr, flowing to private road and bridge contractors. You know....AOI types, through contracts bid out by ODOT.

    So, I guess a recessin isn't a good time to raise taxes, unless they benefit your bankers??

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    I bother to address those points, LT, but the post seems to have been deleted!


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