Sold a Bill of Goods, not Rights

    Two things are certain in life: death and the irresponsible absurdity of the so-called Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. On the surface, Ballot Measure 48, also known as TABOR, almost seems to be sensible, fiscally sound, and somewhat poetic by claiming that a rainy-day fund is the solution for Oregon. Isn’t it always raining in Oregon? Any deeper scratch at this surface of fatuity shows that the idea of permanently capped spending in Oregon is as foolish as it is feckless. Ballot Measure 48 has many confusing nuances. At its core, it would limit state spending to the rate of population growth and inflation. In a state where funding is adequate and basic governmental services are thriving, this limitation may be a fair and balanced way to ensure financial security. Oregon does not exude these characteristics, and we should face the reality of the budget crunch holistically affecting our lives as students.

    We students invest so much in our education. The passing of Ballot Measure 48 would be like a slap in the face, not only to us, but to educators and the future of Oregon as well. An educated citizenry is the most important step towards a robustly developing economy and Ballot Measure 48 would greatly diminish the opportunity for higher education. We don’t need an economy boost borne of relentless struggle and concrete barriers to education. Oregon’s economy would be better served by higher rates of completion of post-secondary education, access to health care for children, and the freedom to choose progress over uninspired fixation.

    Who proposed this constitutional amendment? How could it be believed that this is what is best for Oregon? Don McIntire, president of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, proposes that TABOR would place the power of limiting state spending and tax increases in the hands of the people. Who are these "people"? They are you and I, students of eclectic interests and concerns – hoping for the chance to prosper and pursue our own right to life, liberty and whatever else. It’s easy to be self-righteous and narrowly focused when your vision for Oregon is to lead a state of trusting followers into stalwart submission.

    The title "Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights" is as catchy as it is misleading. TABOR’s major weakness is its limited definition of "taxpayer," which stymies an empirical look at its potential for positive change. This pejorative view is naive and stifling. When citizens have access to education, they have access to higher-paying jobs. Jobs that pay well lead to independence and the ability to pay for things like a person’s own health care, which relieves the strain on social services. TABOR only sees the present and only considers the here and now in its rationality.

    Still not convinced? Here is a troubling scenario described in a report released by the non-profit Oregon Student Association. Had Ballot Measure 48 passed in 1990, education in Oregon would have looked very different. Yes, it is possible for things to get worse. Due to limits in state spending and university funding, several honored Oregon institutions would be shut down completely. These include Eastern Oregon University, the Oregon Institute of Technology, Southern Oregon University and Western Oregon University. Even more frightening is that with the loss of those schools, also incurred would be the 50 percent reduction of funding for Portland State University. Can you picture it? Soaring tuition, overcrowded classrooms, and fewer faculty all lead to a diminished quality of education, which directly and unquestionably relates to the quality of life in Oregon. Proponents of TABOR lack the vision to recognize this simple truth.

    Students have no greater tool for change than going to the ballot box. There is a checklist this fall for fostering healthy participation in the legislature and demanding that your interests are being attentively considered. Register to vote, attend a candidate forum, read your voter guides and thoroughly consider the options proposed. The "Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights" does not consider student interests for numerically controlled reasons. Students usually work for minimal pay and therefore carry a minimal tax burden. We are unwittingly assigned a lackluster voice in what happens to the politics of our future. To not concede the deleterious effects of spending caps on students is dangerous for us. Are we going to let one ill-conceived ballot measure allow society to play hooky from its fiscal responsibility to education?

    Measure 48 lacks vision and inspiration. Its premise is derisory and insulting. Consider your views on TABOR and what education in Oregon might look like twenty years from now, as though you were still going to be a student. We might have flying cars and robots for friends, but we will have lost so much more. TABOR is not being pioneered in Oregon and I won’t go into the details of its inauspicious and short-lived reign in Colorado, not to mention its out-of-state funding. These things you can research for yourselves. Have I convinced you to vote no on Measure 48? I sincerely hope not. I give students too much credit to believe you will simply accept my musings on this topic and not delve into the truth of the matter personally. The purpose of relaying my humble opinion is to signify our supreme right to debate, a concept many politicians hope we have forgotten. Dig deeper and look beyond the stirring title with the clever acronym. No, indeed, I hope I haven’t convinced you to vote no on Measure 48. But without unimpeachable assurance that TABOR is good for Oregon, how can you possibly vote yes?