Oregon voters reject proposed tax hike

Jan. 29, 2003 at 5:00 AM

SALEM, Ore., Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A referendum to raise state taxes for three years has been rejected by Oregon voters. With more than 85 percent of the vote counted just after midnight PST on Tuesday, the vote was 55 percent against Measure 28.

The failure of the proposal means cuts in the state trooper force, assistance for low-income senior citizens and the disabled, community mental health efforts and school funding, the Statesman Journal newspaper reports.

Recent polls had indicated that backing for the measure, which would have raised the annual tax payment by about $114 for the state's 1.6 million filers, had risen sharply in recent weeks. The vote was considered too close to call.

Had it passed, the measure would have provided about $725 million in extra revenue for the remainder of the state's current fiscal year (ending in June) and the two years after that.

The Statesman Journal says the turnout was one of the largest for a special election in the state -- perhaps as high as 65 percent.

The referendum was agreed upon in September, when Republican legislative leaders agreed to put it to the voters "to end a rancorous special legislative session and to avoid passing controversial spending cuts right before fall elections," the newspaper says.

Since 1930, Oregon voters have rejected sales taxes nine times and income tax hikes six times. And in recent years, "Oregonians have been much more likely to use the ballot box to cut taxes rather than raise them. The only successful statewide tax increases were for cigarette taxes," the newspaper said.

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