Why 49, 50 and YAAL matter

You most likely have your ballot for the election coming up in November. And you probably have the voters' pamphlet somewhere around the house. You've undoubtedly been hit by TV and radio ads on the initiatives we're voting on right now. I'd like to make a handful of basic points about all three of the decisions before us and tell you why I think it is absolutely essential for all three to pass.

To begin with, we have a chance to move forward on the vitally important issues of land use, health care and education all on one ballot.

For just a minute, forget everything you've heard about Measure 49 and Measure 50 from the barrage of campaign ads. Here is the bottom line: Measure 49 will fix the land use measure that voters passed in 2004 that has caused havoc throughout our state, and Measure 50 will require a group of Oregonians whose health care costs we all subsidize &

smokers &

to kick in more to the system so we can care for every kid in our state.

Everything else you hear about these two measures is flat out distraction.

If passed, both of these measures will work. Measure 49 will set out the way for property owners to add houses on their land without damaging their neighbors or their community. It addresses the needs of the small property owners who just want to add a house or two for their kids or to sell for their retirement income. That's what the measure that was passed in 2004 promised but couldn't deliver.

Measure 49 delivers, and it keeps the wide-scale development, the massive subdivisions, big box stories and strip malls, out of prime agricultural land and open space.

Measure 50 will bring over 100,000 kids in Oregon, who are currently without health care coverage, into existing programs that will provide the care they need. It will also fund tobacco prevention programs, rural health care programs and help to cover 10,000 low-income adults with basic care.

Given the fact that we &

you, me, all of us &

pay approximately $5.50 in health care costs into the system for every pack of cigarettes consumed by smokers in Oregon (who need far more health care services than any other group of people), asking smokers to take on 85 cents a pack more of the cost of health care seems beyond fair to me.

Opponents will, and are screaming about the process that brought both of these measures about &

that Measure 49 was a partisan bill and Measure 50 shouldn't be in the Constitution. The bottom line on both is that there was no other way to get these done.

The large financial interests who stand to gain so much if Measure 49 does not go through would not allow for any kind of compromise or bipartisan proposal. And the tobacco companies, who are pouring in millions of dollars to defeat Measure 50, would not allow Republican members of the legislature to vote for any path forward to pay for kids' health care with tobacco taxes. A referral of a constitutional amendment by Democratic legislators was the only way to make this move to provide care for every kid in our state.

Please note that our Constitution has been amended over 200 times &

it isn't the preferable route in this case, but it is the only route available.

In desperation, the huge development interests and the tobacco companies are throwing as much money, smoke and as many downright, well, inaccuracies as they can get away with. Please don't believe them. Measure 50 is vital for us in our work towards access to health care for all Oregonians. Measure 49 is vital for us to provide fairness to small property owners while still maintaining our agricultural base and containing sprawl.

On the local level, the Youth Activities and Academics Levy (YAAL) is essential for a very basic reason as well: the YAAL is the only proven way that we can fill the gap between what the state provides in K-12 funding and what our schools need to have excellent academic, as well as extracurricular programs. For 14 years, we've stepped up to provide the local funding to fill that gap, and the restructuring of the levy now will provide the additional benefit of eliminating pay-to-play for all students as well as lowering the tax rate for all Ashland homeowners.

We have three clear choices in front of us, and if we take advantage of them, our state, our kids and our local schools will benefit for years to come.

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