Measure 73: Don't lock up more tax dollars


Property crime has also plunged in Oregon, down more than 10 percent from a year ago. Right about now supporters of tougher mandatory minimum sentences for property crimes would be loudly taking credit for that reduction, too, except for this: The Legislature delayed implementing Measure 57 because the state couldn't afford the tens of millions of dollars of extra prison costs annually.

The point is, public safety is about much more than ever-longer, ever-more expensive prison sentences. Remember, lawmakers chose not to fund Measure 57 because they were trying desperately to protect other segments of the public-safety system, notably the Oregon State Police. That's relevant to the debate over Measure 73 because police patrols are more effective than longer prison sentences at reducing driving under the influence.

You may have heard that Measure 73 would cost only a few million dollars during the next biennium, suggesting that voters can approve it without concern for the $3 billion-plus hole in the next state budget. Well, yes and no. The costs would build and over time Measure 73 would add tens of millions of annual costs to the state corrections budget.

Already, Oregon spends more on prisons every year than it allocates for higher education. Do you want even more of your tax dollars sent to prisons?

The recession has made it painfully clear that Oregon must spend less, not more, on its government and schools. Lawmakers next year will be forced to grapple with many difficult spending cuts, including some to the corrections system. Voters shouldn't make the situation even worse.

As superficially appealing as it looks, Chris Dudley, John Kitzhaber and all those citizens who studied Measure 73 are right: Oregon has locked up enough scarce tax dollars in prisons. Vote no.

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