The tally from Tuesday’s local ballot measure campaigns is in. And as we’ve seen in the last several elections, a majority of the ballot measures that ask Oregonians to fund schools, libraries, and public safety passed this election. (See the full breakdown from the League of Oregon Cities (PDF.)) Oregonians agreed: Let’s invest in what matters.
Yet, while a majority of vital service funding measures passed, the numbers are down some from previous election cycles. We’ve been reporting on trends in local measure elections for some time now, and have historically seen passage rates from 2/3 of all proposed measures to even 70+% of measures.
Local residents see the firsthand impacts of underfunded programs and understaffed schools, fire departments, and police stations in their daily lives; this is why we traditionally see such overwhelming support for local priorities, even when it means identifying local solutions and revenue. Voters absolutely believe in funding these vital programs and services.
But local communities have been forced to shoulder this burden for far too long, as budget cuts at the state level continue. Many of these communities suffer from the ongoing economic crisis, and are still worse off now than five years prior, even with these new levies and bonds in place. Meanwhile, at the state level, corporations and the wealthiest Oregonians continue to enjoy massive tax breaks and a lower effective tax burden than working Oregonians .
So the fact that more than a handful of local levies and bonds failed at the ballot should come as no surprise. In fact, we predicted this shift back after the May election (even when 73% of local tax measures passed!)
Voters have seen the everyday impacts of ongoing budget cuts to their schools and critical services. They’ve seen crucial jobs lost due to funding cuts. They’ve seen their kids and teachers struggle under embarrassingly overcrowded classrooms. They’ve seen what happens to emergency services when first responders are laid off.
They’ve responded by voting to increase funding for their local priorities. In Beaverton, voters passed Measure 34-204 a levy to fund their schools 57% to 43% because of the classroom overcrowding crisis. In La Pine, voters passed two fire district measures to ensure their fire district is prepared and staffed to respond to emergencies.
The message is clear: Oregonians are really, really ready to see improved funding for their schools and other local services. It’s great news that they’re willing to step up, but it’s also become increasingly necessary because the largest, most profitable corporations doing business in Oregon are paying less and less of their share, even as they continue to benefit from our schools and basic infrastructure. That leaves the rest of us holding the bag.
And after last year’s election:
So while Oregonians have shown that they are willing to pitch in to support the programs that they care about, the irresponsible tax policy put into place by Measure 5 means that it may not be enough to preserve these important programs.
In order to remedy this situation, it will require restructuring at the state level…
Hopefully, the reform proposals they eventually produce will allow local communities to decide, in meaningful ways, how to support their priorities.
The fact of the matter is that the state has relied for far too long on local band-aids, while allowing corporations and the wealthiest to dodge paying their fair share. Oregonians deserve better — and voters are looking for change.