Measure 62: No.
Chief petitioner Kevin Mannix calls his Measure 62 "The Oregon CSI Measure," but a more fitting name might be "The Divide-the-Lottery-Pie Measure."
Measure 62 would amend the Oregon Constitution to allocate 15 percent of future lottery profits to a public safety fund that would, among other things, fund criminal investigations and forensic operations of the Oregon State Police.
It's hard to argue with the idea of a stable, dedicated funding source for public safety. OSP's fortunes have declined drastically since Oregonians voted in 1980 to forbid use of gasoline taxes, a portion of which had been dedicated to state police, for anything but road construction and maintenance. Without a dedicated revenue source, state police competed with education and health care for a share of the state's general fund. For the most part, they have not fared well in that competition, although the Legislature last year approved funding for 139 new trooper positions.
Measure 62 would establish a dedicated fund for public safety at the expense of other important state programs that rely on the lottery revenue pie for sustenance. Those programs include public schools, and economic development and job creation programs - services which, like public safety, have suffered from years of inadequate funding.
Mannix insists the cost of Measure 62 would be covered by future growth in lottery earnings, which have, in fact, increased roughly 20 percent in each of the state's four most recent two-year budget cycles. But a new statewide smoking ban is expected to slow, perhaps even halt, lottery growth at a time when a faltering economy will increase the state's reliance on the lottery to help pay for schools, economic development and other services.
In fairness, there is ample precedent for tapping the lottery for services other than the economic and job development programs that voters had in mind when they approved the lottery in 1984.
In 1995, voters approved a constitutional amendment dedicating a share of lottery funds to public education. Two years later, voters approved a statutory measure authorizing the lottery bond program to finance public school projects. In 1998, Oregonians passed a constitutional amendment dedicating 15 percent of lottery funds to state parks and salmon restoration. In the current biennium, those programs account for 44 percent of lottery spending, or nearly $610 million.
Since those programs are already locked into set shares of lottery revenues, they would be unaffected by Measure 62. But others, most notably the state school fund and economic programs that receive the remaining 56 percent of lottery revenues, would take a 41 percent hit if lottery earnings hold steady.
That's unacceptable at a time when lawmakers will face major budget cuts because of the gasping economy, cuts that may well be deepened by passage of either Measure 57 or Measure 61 (another Mannix initiative), which would increase penalties for nonviolent crimes.
Mannix makes some appealing arguments for Measure 62. In addition to the 50 percent of the new public safety fund that would finance criminal investigations and forensics, 20 percent would go to counties to help at-risk kids, 15 percent would supplement county district attorney operations and 15 percent would boost funding for county sheriff's operations.
At a time when rural timber counties have been hit by the loss of federal timber payments, the money for counties may tempt some Lane County voters. But they should keep in mind the unacceptable toll Mannix's proposal will take on schools and economic programs - and vote no on Measure 62.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; It would dedicate lottery funds to public safety|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Oct 2, 2008|
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