Oregon’s 2018 ballot measures: what you need to know

MEDFORD, Ore.– On November 6, Oregonians will not only be voting on key positions for state and federal representation but several measures as well that could affect the states social and economic stances. Here NBC5 News takes a look at four of the five measures for this ballot to understand what they mean and what they would do.

Measure 103 (Ban Tax on Groceries Initiative) – Essentially Oregonians will vote on whether they want to prohibit any state or local tax/fee – creation or increase thereof – on the sale of groceries. Groceries being defined as “raw or processed food or beverages intended for human consumption,” excluding alcohol, marijuana and tobacco.

A “yes” would prohibit a sales tax on groceries and a “no” would keep things the way they are.

Oregon currently does not have a statewide sales tax which includes groceries but also does not have a law preventing local governments from incurring such a sales tax. There are only two local governments – Ashland and Yachats – that have sales taxes on prepared foods and non-alcoholic drinks, falling under the category of groceries according to Oregon’s attorney general. Still, there are no current efforts to propose putting a sales tax on groceries.

In terms of who is supporting and who is opposing the measure boils down to two campaigns: Vote Yes on Measure 103; Keep Our Groceries Tax Free and No on 103

Those in favor of the measure such as the Northwest Grocery Association are funded by five major donors including Albertsons Safeway, Costco and the American Beverage Association. On the campaign’s website it says, “A tax on groceries is unfair and regressive and hits those who can least afford it, like seniors, low-income households and military families. We need to permanently protect groceries from being taxed.” 

However, those who oppose the measure have formed a coalition of over 150 organizations, businesses and individuals and on it’s campaign website stated, “Measure 103 is a risky and dangerous experiment that would lock an unprecedented, unnecessary and flawed tax loophole into Oregon’s constitution.”

According to the attorney general’s office, “[W]e believe that a significant effect of the measure is that the corporate minimum tax could not be amended as it applies to sellers and distributors of groceries.” In essence, the state’s corporate minimum tax which all businesses that sell groceries are subjected to i.e. farmers, small and corporate groceries, would be locked in and the tax could not be amended for increase or decrease if there ever was a need to do so.

Measure 104 (Definition of Raising Revenue for Three-Fifths Vote Requirement Initiative) – It’s the age old battleground for Oregon – taxes. The divide is set over whether any proposal to increase revenue for the state should require a three-fifths supermajority vote in each chamber of the Oregon Legislature. However in a 2015 ruling the Oregon Supreme Court excluded bills to reduce tax breaks, such as exemptions and credits, from the three-fifths vote.

A “yes” would see this constitutional amendment apply to any legislation that increases revenue through tax exemptions, credits, and deductions. A “no” would keep the the supreme court ruling and leave behind the three-fifths ruling.

The two campaigns focused on this measure are A Tax is A Tax Committee or Yes on 104 and No on 104.

Those in favor of the measure include dozens of organizations with the campaign heavily backed by the Oregon Association of Realtors. On the campaign website it states, “Politicians have created loopholes to get around the state’s constitutional requirement for a three-fifths supermajority to raise taxes on Oregon families and small businesses. Measure 104 will close the loopholes and make sure politicians follow the state Constitution.”

The campaign says that Oregon has a constitutional amendment requiring for a supermajority vote on raising revenue but in recent years legislators have found ways around the vote to raise taxes and “eliminating exemptions, deductions and credits without a supermajority vote.”

However, there are many organizations, businesses and individuals a part of the committee supporting No on 104 that disagree with that notion and the measure as a whole.

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters who signed on with the “No” coalition stated, “Currently, only bills that propose a raise in taxes must be approved by a three-fifths legislative majority (AKA a supermajority). If Measure 104 passes, a supermajority vote would be required for bills that propose a fee of any kind.”

Many opponents of the measure have cited it’s recklessness and the protection it would give to special interest groups as well as the support’s effort to make tax policy through a constitutional amendment.

On the campaign’s website it states, “Measure 104 is a wasteful and unnecessary constitutional amendment that would lock in tax loopholes and perks for special interests and increase political gridlock.”

Measure 105 (Repeal Sanctuary State Law Initiative) – Oregon has been considered a sanctuary state ever since it passed a sanctuary law in 1987. Now a measure in this year’s ballot is looking to put an end to all that.

A “yes” vote would mean repealing Oregon Revised Statue 181A.820 which has limited state agencies, including law enforcement, from using state resources and personnel to find and apprehend anyone that may be violating federal immigration law.

A “no” vote would keep Oregon’s sanctuary state status and retain the limiting of state agencies resources to find and apprehend those violating federal immigration law.

Currently three Oregon Representatives – Sal Esquivel (R-6), Mike Nearman (R-23), and Greg Barreto (R-58) – are the main sponsors of the Stop Oregon Sanctuaries campaign also known as The Repeal Oregon Sanctuary Law Committee. Along with 18 Oregon county sheriffs putting their support behind the law (Jackson and Josephine County’s sheriffs have not come out for or against the measure) the campaign website states, “Measure 105 is not about racial profiling, or about fear of the police, or about legal immigrants. It is about allowing state and local law enforcement officers to more easily work with federal immigration authorities in the removal of criminal illegal aliens from our communities.” 

On the other side stands a coalition made up of large businesses like Nike, the Portland Timbers and Thorns, Columbia Sportswear Company and dozens of organizations, law enforcement and politicians endorsing Oregonians United Against Profiling.

The campaign’s argument states the measure, “could open the door to racial profiling and families being torn apart, simply because someone is perceived to be an undocumented immigrant.”

Many on the opposition view the repealing of the sanctuary law would not only scare immigrants and ethic groups from reporting crimes in their communities but would also be using taxpayer money to fund local law enforcement to do the job of a federal agency.

The coalition states, “No Oregonian, including immigrant Oregonians, should live in fear that doing everyday things like going to work, going to school or reporting crimes to the police could result in harassment or families being torn apart.”

Measure 106 (Ban Public Funds for Abortions Initiative) – A hot topic nationally that is making it’s way to the state level for Oregon. Simply put this measure would prevent public funds from being spent on abortions except in certain circumstances.

A “yes” vote would prohibit public funds being spent on abortion. A “no” vote would continue allowing public funds for abortion.

Several caveats to this measure need to be outlined however. First, if the measure were to pass, public funds could still be used to pay for abortions but only if they are deemed “medically necessary.” The measure defines the term as “a condition in which a licensed physician determines that the pregnant woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.”

Second, public funds may also be used for abortions when federal law requires it such as in the case of rape or incest.

The line is drawn between two campaigns: Yes on Measure 106 and No Cuts to Care.

Supporters of the measure led by Oregon Life United have stated that Oregon is funding abortions, even late-term abortions, and taxpayers are paying for it. The campaign states, “Measure 106 doesn’t stop anyone from choosing an abortion, but it will give Oregon taxpayers freedom from having to pay for other people’s personal choices.”

The opposition incorporating groups such as Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, ACLU of Oregon NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon believe this is a dangerous ballot measure. The campaign states, “Anti-abortion extremists in Oregon have put a measure on the ballot that would cut access to care for vulnerable Oregonians. Measure 106 is a backdoor ban on abortion. It makes it so only those who can afford it are able to access abortion. A right is not a right if you can’t afford to access it.”


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