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Oregonians want better education and for big business to help pay for it, poll finds

 

   
Members of the OSBA board and legislative policy committee join OSBA Executive Director Jim Green (front left) and OSBA Board President Betty Reynolds (front right) on Monday in the Capitol to announce the results of an OSBA poll. The survey revealed the importance of education to Oregonians and some of the ways they are willing to pay for it.  

The Legislature needs to act now to fund the Quality Education Model because students won’t be getting these school years back, OSBA Executive Director Jim Green said at a news conference Monday at the Capitol.

Green said Oregon cannot continue to underfund public schools year after year.

“It is unconscionable. It’s irresponsible,” he said. “It’s time to move forward on this debate.”

OSBA released Monday a ground-breaking poll clearly showing that Oregonians consider K-12 education as the Legislature’s top funding priority. The poll also reveals how Oregonians view different ways of paying for public services.

“We believe that the new survey provides a starting point to tackle the tough issue of revenue reform,” said OSBA Board President Betty Reynolds.

DHM Research, on behalf of OSBA, questioned 600 Oregonians from Feb. 23 to 26 about their values, state service priorities and what it would take to earn their support for revenue reform strategies. This survey is believed to be the most comprehensive evaluation of Oregonians’ public spending goals as the state faces a $1.6 billion budget shortfall for 2017-19 and a long-term struggle paying for services such as education, health and public safety.

Oregonians consider K-12 education the state’s top funding priority and they think big businesses should carry a larger share of the tax burden, according to poll results.

“The time to act is clearly now,” Green said. “We have to do this this biennium. We cannot wait any longer.”

Green stressed that schools are starting to consider their budgets now and that the funding level being discussed in the Legislature will result in school cuts. Oregon school business officials say they need at least $8.4 billion to maintain current services. The legislative budget framework presented in January allocated $7.8 billion for schools.

Schools can’t wait until final numbers are hashed out in July to find out whether the Legislature is going to add more money, Green said. Schools need to know now that they will be able to preserve teaching positions, programs and class sizes so that students don’t lose another year of school to an underfunded system.

New State Funding Survey graphicAcross the board, regardless of party affiliation or state region, Oregonians voiced support for funding education, with 93 percent calling it very or somewhat important. Nearly 60 percent somewhat agreed or strongly agreed Oregon had not increased taxes enough to meet the state’s demands, and 61 percent agreed they would rather pay more in taxes than see larger class sizes and a shorter school year.

It is not unusual for surveys to find that people value education, but Green says this poll is different because it gives legislators information about where Oregonians are willing to see taxes increased to pay for K-12 schools.

When asked about the fairness of Oregon’s tax burden, nearly half of respondents said individual taxes are about right and small business taxes are too high, while more than half said large businesses pay too little in taxes. Roughly two-thirds of Oregonians prefer a progressive income tax rather than a flat tax or a spending tax, once again making clear that a sales tax should be off the table.

Most Oregonians agree that the state needs a more diverse tax system that is less reliant on personal income taxes (71 percent strongly or somewhat agree) and that the state should maintain a Rainy Day Fund for tough times (86 percent strongly or somewhat agree). About 61 percent would strongly or somewhat support eliminating the personal tax “kicker” and devoting that money to a Rainy Day Fund for K-12 education.

- Jake Arnold, OSBA
jarnold@OSBA.org