Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Note on Ballot Measures

In years past I would have been all over the ballot measures, trying to do a relatively sober economic analysis of the pros and cons of such measures.  This year I have not done so and there are a few reasons for this.

One: I think I have covered a lot of the territory before. I have weighed in many times on school funding and have discussed the bond measure on capital construction for PPS. I did a post a few years ago on what the economic literature says about the social cost of gambling when the first Wood Village proposal was put forth. I think the economic evidence in support of inheritance taxes is strong. Finally, I just have no interest into getting into the weeds on the marijuana measure (get it? 'weeds' ... I crack myself up...), but there is some interesting evidence about how marijuana use and adolescent sexual behavior are linked (weakly), how marijuana laws and drunk driving interact (more marijuana, many fewer DUI arrests), decriminalization and high school graduation rates (improve - strangely enough) and the economic impact of decriminalization and taxation (lots of $$).  Have fun.

Two: there are some very tough calls, most notably Measure 85 which would take the corporate kicker and devote it instead to school funding.  I am a huge proponent of school funding and a kicker skeptic so you'd think I'd be all for this.  But I have serious reservations.  I think we need wholesale fiscal reform to provide stability to the state budget and I think we need to incorporate the kickers into a rainy-day fund.  This does not do anything of the sort (I wish it put funds into a dedicated rainy-day schools fund that stipulated the terms of its use).  And, in fact, may not help schools at all as the state government can (and most likely will) just shift other general funds away from schools in response.  But I don't think the kicker matters much to businesses anyway - they can count on them and therefore don't plan for them.  So the only question to me is: will the passage of this measure make it more or less likely that a more wholesale reform will take place?  Not sure, but there is a reasonable argument that through the passage of this measure the government will hear that Oregonians think schools are important and are willing to trade off the kicker for more school support.  But it could also bury the idea of reform by giving a false sense that we have already made a big step in that direction.  I just don't know.

Three: I am busy, busy, busy and have already wasted too much time on the blog today!

So good luck in making your own choices, I hope some of this helps, but whatever you decide to do, please vote!

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