Tax refund or budget reduction?

    To its supporters, Measure 41 is a family-friendly tax cut that will give middle-income households a reduction of approximately $140 per person.

    Opponents say that Measure 41 is a “fool’s gold” measure that would cut the planned state budget by 6 percent, reducing funding to higher education and other vital state services.

Measure 41 would change Oregon’s system of income tax collection, allowing middle-income taxpayers to exchange their tax credit for a tax deduction equal to that offered by the federal government.

    PSU’s President Dan Bernstine has joined with the other six presidents of the Oregon University System in condemning the measure. The presidents have held multiple press conferences and have taken out an ad in the Voter’s Pamphlet asking Oregonians to vote no on Measure 41.

    ”Today Oregon’s universities are producing more college graduates at a lower cost than over the past 25 years,” the ad says. “Measure 41 will put the brakes on the contributions our universities make to our economy, hurting us all.”

    Measure 41’s chief spokesman, Russ Walker, said he does not believe the measure would cause a decrease in higher education funding. He said that, instead, the $800 million in reductions could be used to cut “unnecessary programs.”

    ”The State has to fund its core functions first,” he said.

    It is estimated that the Measure would cut $800 million from next year’s planned state budget – $77 million of which may come from higher education.

    ”This measure is going to cause significant cuts to services which Oregonians rely on,” said Michael Leachmann of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a progressive Silverton think-tank. “These are things which we need if we want to keep up with other states and the rest of the world. It’s not worth it.”

    Walker said he thinks the ballot measure is a progressive step toward helping the state save money.

“What we have to do is look at ways to reduce the cost of doing service,” said Walker, who works for FreedomWorks, a national organization that is also funding this year’s ballot Measure 40, the judicial redistricting proposal. “The state needs to do what it needs to do, and figure out ways to get rid of things which aren’t necessary.”    

    Walker said that this would result in an approximate savings of $140 per household member, with higher savings for “the hardworking families of Oregon.” A family of three would get $420, while a family of four would get $560, and so forth.

    In an interview earlier this year, PSU Provost and vice president of Academic Affairs Roy Koch said that a 6 percent cut in the state budget would likely result in even greater budget cuts to the University system. Higher education funding is considered flexible, he said, and because of that, it would be cut before federally mandated programs.

    ”We’d be looking at roughly several million dollars in cuts,” he said in August. “It’d be very, very difficult. It might not be possible.”