BY MARISSA WOLTANSKI
Oregon State Representatives Peter Buckley (D) and Dennis Richardson (R) argued ballot measures 66 and 67 in a forum hosted by the Associated Student Government of Rogue Community College at the Riverside Campus.
Over two-hundred people turned out for the January 11 event to hear the issues of 66 and 67.
Buckley argued in favor of the measures while Richardson stood in opposition.
Richardson kicked off the debate by emphasizing the potential affects of 67 on smaller businesses, and downplaying the potential for cuts.
“There are no automatic cuts that are going to take place as a result of voting down measures 66 and 67,” Richardson said. “If you’re interested in education you’re told you’re going to get cut. If you’re interested in human services you’re going to get cut, but the reality is if these measures are voted down then the legislature will meet in February and decisions will be made as to whether or not we should use reserves to back fill the hole or use some reserves and make cuts in some areas.
“But there is no pre-determination as to where those cuts should be made and if we are going make cuts. They should be made where they’re going to have the least effect. There will not be automatic losses in the areas that you hold dear,” said Richardson.
According to Buckley, there is is simply not enough money in reserve to cover the estimated $730 million that 66 and 67 would generate.
“Over 50 percent of the Oregon budget goes to education” Buckley said. “There will have to be a cut to K-12, community colleges, and higher education and there’s no way to avoid that.”
According to Buckley an average of 5.5 percent of each budget — education, human services and public safety — would be cut across the board.
“There is not enough of a reserve to buffer that,” he said.
Richardson referred to the measures as “class envy.” He said that taxing the rich who have the ability to be mobile and leave state was not the answer.
He likened the measures to socialism, which garnered a vocal response from the audience.
Michael Torguson, a member RCC’s faculty who moderated the debate, made the comment that likened Richardson impassioned speech to a preacher at a revival meeting.
Buckley’s demeanor was much more toned down. “I am going to try to and avoid using rhetoric and focus on the facts,” he said.
According to the Oregon Legislative Revenue office, measures 66 and 67 will over time, improve Oregon’s business climate, Buckley said.
Dan Kosmatka a local CPA who works with many corporations around the rogue valley, said that he has met with clients who are considering leaving the state if the measures pass.
“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” he said. You can’t keep biting the had that feeds you.”
Richardson recommended that Oregon state workers begin paying for their healthcare to shore up budget shortfalls. Oregon state employees are the only state workers in the nation who do not pay toward their healthcare.
According to Buckley, RCC could stand to lose as much as a $1 million if the measures fail.
Richardson said, that those figures are “marketing and propaganda to make these tax increases go through.”
If these measures do not pass “we are in crisis mode,” Buckley said.
Ballots are due on January 26.