Oregon voters will get to weigh in on two ballot measures that are legislative referrals. As David Nogueras reports, Measures 70 and 72 already have the Legislature’s stamp of approval.
Oregon’s Legislature has broad authority to craft laws, but Democratic State Senator Martha Schrader says those powers do have limits.
Martha Schrader: “Anything that may have any tweaking of the Constitution always has to go to the vote of the people.”
Legislative referrals give Oregonians final say before lawmakers make those tweaks.
One of those referrals, Measure 70, expands a home loan program for Oregon veterans to make loans available to more veterans as a lifetime benefit.
Schrader, who’s from Canby chairs the Senate Veteran’s Committee. She helped write the legislative argument for Ballot Measure 70 in the Oregon Voter’s Guide.
Schrader says veterans who served less than 210 consecutive days of active duty currently aren’t eligible to take part in that program. She says this excludes some members of the Oregon National Guard and Army Reserves who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
Martha Schrader: “Because what they’ve been doing is they’ve been going back and forth to war zones, serving, then coming back, then being redeployed back there. So, we don’t think they should be excluded from this lifetime benefit for veterans.“
Schrader says the measure would also include veterans who served more 30 years ago, effectively opening the program up to veterans from the Vietnam era.
Estimates from Oregon’s Legislative Financial Committee, project Measure 70 to have no direct financial impact on state. It passed the legislature unanimously.
Measure 72 affects how the state can borrow money. It would change the state’s borrowing limit of $50,000 to allow low interest bonds for buying, building, repairing, or furnishing state-owned property.
The Legislative Financial Committee estimates the measure to save the state money in financing costs.
Republican State Representative Bob Jenson from Pendleton says General Obligation Bonds, as they’re known, are the cheapest method of borrowing for the state. But he says the state Constitution puts limits on their use.
Bob Jenson: “Many projects cannot be financed with General Obligation Bonds but instead are forced to be financed by higher interest bearing, what are called Certificates of Participation.”
Jenson says had Measure 72 been in place last year, the State would have saved $38 million in interest costs. But, while there isn’t any organized opposition to this measure, it did face opposition in the Legislature.
Twenty-eight Republican lawmakers in the House and the Senate voted against it.
Republican Representative Dennis Richardson from Central Point was one of them. In an analysis posted on his website, Richardson argued it would provide the legal authority for the state to take on another $5 billion of long-term debt.