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Measure 101 is not the answer

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We salute officials and legislators who endeavor to solve problems, and there are plenty of areas that have issues.

The Oregon legislature passed House Bill 2391 in 2017 that imposes temporary assessments on premiums charged by health insurance companies as well as an assessment on large hospitals to help pay healthcare for Oregon’s low-income individuals and families. This month’s one-question special election for Measure 101 is asking Oregon residents to vote whether to keep HB 2391 as is or reject it.

The problem is that HB 2391 creates problems also. There is nothing in the bill or the ballot measure that guarantees that money collected is earmarked exclusively for the healthcare costs of Oregon’s neediest patients. Money collected could easily be diverted into other areas of government operation—that is not something Oregon voters can knowingly support.

The other glaring problem with Measure 101 is that it is uneven in whom it collects from. Large companies will not be taxed, though large public service organizations—such as public school districts—will.

Measure 101 is trying to smooth over problems in Oregon and on the federal level. Medicaid payments are less than in previous years. One billion fewer Medicaid dollars would flow into Oregon.

Measure 101 is really just a bandage. We think the measure should go down in defeat. We think this will force the legislature to address Oregon’s healthcare and tax issues head on. The measure is flawed. Oregonians are in no mood to approve any new taxes or fees, regardless of what supporters call it.

The state’s general operating budget is almost $40 billion per year and Oregon lawmakers fight over pennies when it comes to funding education and healthcare. What is needed is leadership on taxing and spending issues. Every bit of spending legislation is picked apart by interests—exemptions and waivers become part of a spending package.

Most people would agree that enough money is collected in taxes, fees, licenses and other sources to fund what the people want to fund. At the same time most people are generous and want to watch out for their fellow man. While Measure 101 aims to help pay for the healthcare costs of those less fortunate, a hopscotch taxing scheme is not the answer.

Democrats and Republicans need to act in the name of all their constituents, not the just the financial donors. In politics winning is everything, but in governing quality of life for all is everything. We call on legislators of every ideology and political party to fix the healthcare financing problem at its next session without raising new sources of revenue.

Government’s number one job is to protect its citizens. Nothing defines that job more than keeping citizens healthy.