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MailTribune.com
  • Measure 76: Yes, but ...

    Parks, beaches and streams are vital, but so is flexibility in bad economic times
  • Ordinarily, we would be among the first to beat the drum for Ballot Measure 76, which would continue devoting 15 percent of Oregon Lottery proceeds to parks, beaches, streams and wildlife habitat beyond 2014. But these are not ordinary times. The state faces a severe budget crisis, exactly the wrong time to be talking about d...
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  • Ordinarily, we would be among the first to beat the drum for Ballot Measure 76, which would continue devoting 15 percent of Oregon Lottery proceeds to parks, beaches, streams and wildlife habitat beyond 2014. But these are not ordinary times. The state faces a severe budget crisis, exactly the wrong time to be talking about dedicated funding for any purpose, no matter how popular. Still, we recommend a yes vote on Measure 76 — with some important conditions.
    In 1998, Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment devoting 15 percent of lottery proceeds to parks and natural areas. The state parks system was in crisis, public facilities were crumbling and salmon runs were in dismal shape. The 1998 measure included a sunset date of 2014, meaning the dedicated funding would end if not renewed by voters.
    By all accounts, the lottery funding has been a success. Parks are in better shape, wetlands and other natural areas have been restored, and jobs have been created across the state as a result.
    We consistently support efforts to protect, maintain and restore Oregon's natural beauty. It's what makes Oregon, Oregon.
    But we are not fans of locking up funding streams for any purpose when schools, social services and public safety — the core functions of state government — are threatened with drastic budget cuts. When the state faces a crisis as it does now, every program the state supports should be on the table.
    If we can't cut funding for state parks in an emergency, what can we cut?
    Some lawmakers had the same concern. Two of them, Portland Democrats Jules Bailey and Ben Cannon, wrote in a guest column in The Oregonian that they had been prepared to oppose the measure because it made no provision for diverting the lottery money in an emergency. But conservation groups backing the measure have agreed to support amendments to the measure that the 2011 Legislature would refer to voters.
    Those amendments include provisions allowing lawmakers to divert dedicated funds to other parts of state government during emergency situations, limiting the growth of the fund by indexing it to the overall state budget rather than the lottery, and sunsetting the measure in 2035 unless voters renew it. As written, Measure 76 would make the funding stream permanent.
    We, too, can support Measure 76 if those amendments are offered to voters. The groups backing the measure must live up to their commitment to support the amendments and campaign for them.
    Given those conditions, we recommend a yes vote on Measure 76.
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