No-show turns debate into lecture

    A one-sided debate was held at Portland State over the two Oregon ballot measures that would alter state funding.

    Measure 41 would allow a tax refund for a 6 percent cut in state funding and Measure 48 would cap state spending. The opposition to both measures said that, if approved, they would be detrimental to the state budget and would have significant effects on funding for education.

    Matt Evans, member of the Rainy Day Fund Committee, was tentatively scheduled to speak in favor of the measures, but did not attend the debate. Mara Gross, outreach coordinator for Defend Oregon, spoke against both measures with no opposing arguments.

    ”They are both fiscal matters that will do significant harm to the state,” Gross said. “We already have lots of limits on our state funding, we don’t need these.”

    ”I wanted to hear the pro side,” said Justin Myers, university affairs director of Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU). “It’s unfortunate that we can’t have a dialogue.”

    The Taxpayers Association of Oregon put ASPSU in contact with the Rainy Day Fund Committee, the only group they found willing to represent the pro side of both Measures 41 and 48. Patrick Beisell, ASPSU state affairs director, said Evans neither confirmed nor denied that he would appear at the debate.

    ”He said he knew the PSU audience and accused us of stacking the audience with people against him,” Beisell said. “We proceeded without him.”

    Scott Burns, geology professor and president of the statewide faculty senate, mediated the event by posing questions to Gross.

    Measure 41 would allow most taxpayers to substitute a personal tax credit they claim with a personal state tax credit of $140 per household member. The measure would cut $792 million out of the state budget and it is estimated that postsecondary education would lose $77.6 million if 41 is approved.

    Measure 48 would impose a spending limit on the state budget calculated by the percentage increase in state population plus inflation.

    ”Theoretically it sounds reasonable, but the formula is deeply flawed,” Gross said.

    Gross said that prison and senior populations are growing at a faster rate than the overall population, meaning funds would not be adequately allotted for such causes with Measure 48. Any amount spent above the limit would need to be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of Oregon voters, but they would have to wait until the next general election to do so.

    Gross said some students would see a slight decrease in their income taxes if Measure 41 passes, but that it would only apply to students with a high enough income. She said to most students, who are single dependents, the measure would have little to no effect on them.

    ”I don’t see any strengths for higher education because of cuts,” Gross said. She also said this will have what is called a “boomerang effect” on students, meaning that student fees would likely be raised to make up for the lack of funds.

    Measure 48 is estimated to cause a $2.2 billion to $4.9 billion reduction to the current state budget of $12 billion. This would translate into less funding for everything, including education.

    Gross said Measure 48 would not necessarily create a rainy day fund. The measure is a constitutional amendment and by default, she said, would go into effect 30 days after it was passed.

    Gross said that this means that Measure 48 could be interpreted to apply retroactively, because the language of the ballot measure is unclear and ambiguous. This could potentially take $2.2 billion out of a budget that has already been allocated.

    ”We hear about all the harm these measures will do, but the good news is we can stop them,” Gross said in her closing statement.

    The debate was the last in a series of three organized by the Student Vote Coalition that covered all of the ballot measure for Oregon’s upcoming election.

    ”I thought the debates would be a good way to get opposing views on the measures,” said freshman Adam Brewer. He said that even without representation of the proponents of the measures, he found the debate informative.