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Oregon Voters Stand Up for Schools

New tax increases on the wealthy will protect education, other key public services

by Tim Walker

In a stunning and welcome victory for schools, voters in Oregon last night approved new tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to help fill the state’s budget shortfall. By raising the corporate minimum tax from $10 to $150 and increasing the tax rates on household income above $250,000, Measures 66 and 67 will protect nearly $1 billion in funding for schools, health care, and public safety in Oregon.

“The voters took a stand against more 4-day school weeks and bulging class sizes and said yes to corporations and the wealthy paying their fair share,” said Oregon Education Association (OEA) President Gail Rasmussen. “The message from Oregon voters was loud and clear: protect our classrooms.”

OEA joined a large group of community organizations, including small business owners, advocates for children and seniors, churches, environmental organizations, and civil rights groups that united to pass the measures. Educators across the state went door- to- door to talk with their neighbors about the impact on schools and other public services if the measures were not passed.

David Wilkinson, a teacher at Westview High School in Portland, hopes that now that “the holes in the budget can be plugged,” the state can move ahead with a “conversation about meaningful tax reform.”

Not only did Oregon voters reverse its longstanding history of rejecting tax increases, (66 and 67 are the first voter-approved income tax increases since the 1930s), but they might have also delivered what Bill Lynch, a political science professor at Oregon State University, calls an “ideological counterweight” to Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts last week, that could have national implications.

In other words, voters in Oregon embraced the notion that government must continue to provide critical public services, including public education. What’s more, it’s not too much to expect that corporations and the wealthy do a little bit more when times are hard.

“Educators want to change the conversation,” said Gail Rasmussen. “We want to talk about investing in education, investing in our future. Dollar-for-dollar, education is the best investment Oregon can make.”


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