Oregon voters will decide on two flawed ballot measures this November that will hurt schools, public safety efforts and social services for the young and old - and everyone in between.
Here is how Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon describes both measures and why EMO – a coalition of “16 Christian denominations including Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox bodies across Oregon” suggests that Christians vote against the initiatives:
Measure 41: Statutory Amendment—Allows income tax deduction equal to federal exemptions deduction to substitute for state exemption credit.
Analysis — This measure would permit state income tax filers the option to substitute the state tax credit for the federal deduction on exemptions in order to reduce state income tax liability. State tax credits reduce the amount of taxes owed by the filer dollar for dollar. The state tax credit was $154 for each personal exemption in 2005. Substituting for the federal deduction would reduce the amount of income used to calculate state taxes owed. In 2005, the federal tax deduction was $3,200. For most tax filers, the net effect would reduce state taxes owed but would increase federal taxes because of a smaller deduction for state taxes under the federal income tax filing. Income tax filers with an adjusted gross income of $15,000 to $20,000 would pay an average of $181 less in state income tax. Income tax filers with an adjusted gross income of $90,000 to $100,000 would pay an average of $439 less in state income tax.
The measure would reduce tax revenue available to the state to pay for public education, public safety and social services. In the first year of implementation, there would be a 6 percent, $355 million decrease of tax revenue. The decrease would steadily reach about 6.5 percent each year. The measure would automatically decrease the size of the tax kicker.
Proponents argue that Measure 41 would result in tax cuts that benefit families. They argue that they would be the biggest beneficiaries. Proponents also argue that tax cuts and smaller government results in greater freedoms for individuals and families. Opponents argue that the value of the estimated tax cut per tax payer is less than the value of public education, public safety and human services that would be lost as a result of the measure. They argue that the most tax relief any taxpayer would receive is $11.17 per month.
EMO Recommendation — Vote “NO.”
The EMO Board believes the net effect of the measure would shrink the safety net for the most vulnerable while providing very little social benefit in return. Measure 41 is very libertarian in philosophy, i.e. the less taxes paid, the greater the common good. This is counter to the Judeo/Christian understanding of the common good as distinct from individual good. Paying less tax does not necessarily translate into better services, social benefits or a just society. Taxes are a financial investment for personal and social benefits not always easily quantifiable in dollar amounts. Taxes should be used to provide services that promote the common good. These services include public education, public safety and health care. Taxes are to fund essential services for civil society that individuals or families are unable to afford on their own.
Measure 48: Constitutional Amendment—Limits biennial percentage increase in state spending to percentage increase in state population, plus inflation.
Analysis — Presently, state government spending is limited to no more than eight percent of projected personal income in a biennium. Federal funds and donated moneys are excluded from the spending limit. In 2001, the Legislature enacted the spending limit to replace an existing limit that was complicated to administer. Measure 48 would require the Oregon Legislature to reach a two-thirds majority in order to refer a ballot to voters to bypass the limit.
Proponents argue that state government spends more for public services than necessary due to administrative inefficiency and incorrect priorities. They argue that state spending should fall in line with inflation and population growth. They also argue that a state spending limit is a rainy day fund for economic downturns, although the measure does not specifically call for one.
Opponents argue that a spending limit would affect the state’s ability to provide public services asked for by citizens. They argue that state government serves specific segments of the state’s populations such as unemployed or laid off workers, seniors, children and prisoners that grow at a faster rate than the general population. Education, human services and public safety spending would be inadequate to serve those populations. They also argue that state health services would be severely cut because health care inflation generally rises faster than the Consumer Price Index.
EMO Recommendation — Vote “NO.”
The EMO Board believes that a restrictive state spending limit like Measure 48 is counter to the common good. Democratic government’s role is to ensure that certain social systems permit people to fulfill their individual and mutual interests such as education, health, personal safety, financial opportunity and recreational pursuits. Measure 48 would hurt the elderly, children, the disabled and the mentally ill who depend on state services. Citizens should demand accountability from its government, but it does not mean harming the most vulnerable in doing so with such a blunt tool. Accountability can be achieved by more constructive ways such as participating in the legislative process, voting, communicating with elected officials and government agencies, and campaign finance and lobbying reform.