CANYON CITY - Measures 66 and 67 easily won approval in the Jan. 26 special election, fueled by a tide of yes votes in the heavily Democratic counties of Northwestern Oregon.

Grant County swam against that tide, with a strong majority voting to reject both measures. In unofficial final returns, the local count was 2,078-901 against Measure 66 and 2,099-867 against Measure 67.

Grant County's turnout was nearly 67 percent, with 3,014 voters casting ballots.

Measure 66 raises taxes on the highest income Oregonians and eliminates income tax on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits received in 2009. Measure 67 raises some corporate and business taxes.

Statewide, the measures passed handily - 53 percent to 47 percent. Support was strongest in the Portland and Eugene areas and the North and Central Coast.

The more sparsely populated counties of Southern and Eastern Oregon all rejected the measures.

Democrats saw the results as vindication for their work in the state Legislature last session, when they approved a $727 million tax package to balance the state budget.

The vote also means legislators won't have to go through a difficult budget-cutting session this month.

Education and public employee groups were thrilled with the vote, as was Kevin Looper, director of the Yes for Oregon campaign.

"This was a victory for working people, responsible businesses and community organizations who wanted to protect our schools and vital services, and for all those who put our common future above narrow self-interest, " he said.

Otto Schell, of the Oregon PTA, called the win a victory for all Oregonians but particularly students and middle-class families.

"Strong schools and preserving public services are critical to our children's future and key to our economic recovery. Today, Oregon voters have laid the foundation for a strong future."

In Grant County, the passage of the measures will make a $400,000 difference for Grant School District 3, School Superintendent Newell Cleaver said. He said it will allow the district to restore five days, cut in this school year, for the next academic year.

He called the vote "a positive result for public education." However, he said, "It's unfortunate that these tax dollars will be coming from business and people who employ a lot of workers in Oregon. It doesn't solve the long-term problem of how to fund education, and it's also a reflection of how voters in Oregon are divided by urban and rural issues."

Cleaver said he doesn't see the geographic split as a sign that some regions don't support education, but there's a question of "how do we do it."

"The voters are not in harmony with these issues. I can understand the concerns of those who voted against it, and I'm sensitive to those concerns," he said.

John Day resident and small-business owner Nancy Nickel was pleased with the measures' success.

"Their passage means that wealthy people and large C-corporations will pay more of their fair share for a safer, better-educated Oregon. I was distressed that hard-working business owners who were not incorporated were frightened by the opposition into believing they could lose their businesses or others could lose their jobs.

"That will not happen, but that fear kept them from taking a close look at the measures."

Glen Johnston, a small business owner who does logging and forest health contracting, supported the measures and also was pleased with the outcome.

"I feel that most businesses are probably like mine, and I'll just end up paying an extra $140 a year. It's easily worth that much to me to have better educational opportunities for our kids," he said. "I think that before this measure passed, Oregon was the 49th lowest state for business tax, and this will make it 48th.

"Even though we were 49th we still had the one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, so obviously having low business taxes doesn't mean jobs."

Republican legislators don't see things that way.

State Sen. Ted Ferrioli said he was concerned to see the immediate reaction of the education lobby was celebration, followed by a discussion of why the new revenue won't be enough.

"It was immediate," he said.

Ferrioli said the state can't sustain growth in government employment while the private sector, which pays the bill, is declining.

He saw the vote as another example of the disconnect between rural and urban Oregon, and the sway that public employee and education unions hold over state politics.

"This was passed by the folks who benefit from a tax-supported economy," he said.

Seeing a squelching impact on the private sector, he predicted Oregon won't recover as fast as in other states "that didn't shoot themselves in the foot."

State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) said the vote means that Oregon now boasts the highest personal income tax rate in the nation.

'Such a distinction will not help create the new jobs so desperately needed for Oregon's economic recovery," he said.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Lim, a former state senator from Gresham, was in John Day after the election last week. He said the tax hikes are like neon signs at Oregon's borders, "telling investors that we don't want their jobs."

Asked if his opposition to the measures put him at odds with the majority of Oregon voters, he said, "absolutely not." He cited lopsided spending in the campaigns as proof.

The campaigns for and against the measures spent nearly $12 million combined. Yes for Oregon raised some $6.8 million for the campaign, while the Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes raised $4.6 million in the attempt to defeat the measures.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.