Oregon voters defeat Measure 97, approve Measures 98 and 99
November 9, 2016
Voters have rejected a corporate tax plan that would have injected about $3 billion per year into state funding, leaving lawmakers with the task of filling a projected $1.35 billion budget shortfall in the next biennium.
Measure 97, which would have been the largest tax increase in Oregon history, was losing 59 percent to 40 percent in early returns. The measure was designed to benefit schools, health care and senior services – but independent analysts concluded that its proceeds could be used as the Legislature wished.
Two other education-related measures fared better in Tuesday’s general election. Measure 98, which would provide funding for dropout prevention, college readiness and career training, was passing 65 percent to 34 percent. Measure 99, a proposal to fund Outdoor School, was passing 66 percent to 33 percent.
Jeremy Rogers, vice president of the Oregon Business Council, said the takeaway from Measure 97’s defeat is that elected officials must address the state’s underlying spending problems before they can fix school funding and balance the state budget.
“Our elected officials have to lead this conversation, and it has to be a comprehensive approach,” he said.
The business community would like to be a partner in working with lawmakers to solve the problem, he added.
Measure 97, if it had passed, would have levied a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax on large “C” corporations that have Oregon sales of more than $25 million. Opponents contended that the tax ultimately would have been passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices on retail goods.
Measure 97 wound up as the most expensive political campaign in Oregon history, with supporters and opponents spending a combined total of more than $42 million. The previous high of $29 million was set in 2014 involving a measure to label genetically modified foods.
With Measure 98, schools will get financial help in adding career-technical classes, providing more college credit classes and addressing the high school graduate rate. The measure requires the Legislature to earmark $800 per student – about $150 million in all – to fund dropout prevention strategies and provide college and career readiness programs in high schools. The Department of Education and the Secretary of State's audit division will monitor the results.
Parents and environmental groups are celebrating passage of Measure 99 to fund Outdoor School. It requires the Legislature to earmark Oregon Lottery revenue – between $5.5 million and $22 million per year – to fund a weeklong Outdoor School experience for all Oregon fifth and sixth graders. The Oregon State University Extension Service will oversee the fund.
Outdoor School was founded in 1957, but over the years many districts have either dropped the program or reduced the number of days because of lack of funding. In those that still offer it, parents typically are asked to pick up part of the tab. Proponents tout Outdoor School as a special experience that all Oregon students should have, so they can appreciate and learn more about the environment.