This article was published on: 03/9/11 12:00 AM
Measure 76 comes back to haunt us
Published: February 26. 2011 4:00AM PST
Measure 76, passed by voters in the fall election, guaranteed that 15 percent of lottery revenue goes to parks and wildlife habitat. That may be about $160 million per biennium. The Nature Conservancy helped lead the campaign. The group made a deal to ensure the measure got past the Legislature. Now, the deal is broken.
During the campaign, legislative leaders and environmental groups — including The Nature Conservancy — acknowledged the measure was flawed and needed a legislative fix.
The measure has no sunset. If lottery income skyrockets, there was no provision to change it to better balance how state funds are spent. There was no provision for lawmakers to take the money in an emergency.
The measure also reduced the portion of the lottery money that goes to state agencies from 45 percent to 35 percent, so that money would have to come from someplace else. That means that implementing Measure 76 would cost the general fund $8.5 million for the next biennium, The Willamette Week reported.
Legislative leaders and the environmental groups even signed a memo in August 2010 agreeing that the measure needed to be fixed. Without that agreement, House Speaker Dave Hunt told The Oregonian: “I think the measure would have been defeated.”
Well, here we are at the end of February 2011 and the Nature Conservancy is saying it doesn’t want the fix. It’s a fix too far, they say. The group says it never wanted to change back the portion of the lottery money going to state agencies.
The lottery money allocated by Measure 76 to parks and wildlife may go to many deserving things. But being on the side of Measure 76 means a trade-off of less money for Oregon education, public safety and the social safety net. Being on the side of Measure 76 means no recognition that the state’s lottery revenue picture can change. Being on the side of Measure 76 means less flexibility for future legislators — and therefore future taxpayers — to decide how the state’s money is spent.
Now that we have Measure 76, it needs a fix. And perhaps legislators will recognize that promises and memos are not much of an argument to support flawed legislation.
Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010