What happens when you put 20 average Oregonians in a room and ask them to spend four days learning the ins and outs of Measure 97?
That may sound like the wonkiest reality show ever, but it actually happened over the weekend at Western Oregon University.
A group of Oregonians selected to represent the state's diversity wound up narrowly supporting the corporate tax measure by an 11-9 vote. Measure 97 — which for months was known as Initiative Petition 28 — is the most notable issue on the November ballot in Oregon.
The group of Oregonians was assembled by the Citizens' Initiative Review Commission, which every campaign year picks one or two measures for study. The citizens panel puts its findings in the Oregon Voters' Pamphlet, which is mailed to hundreds of thousands of voters.
Several members of the panel said they struggled with the Measure 97, which would raise taxes by $3 billion a year on corporations with sales of more than $25 million a year in Oregon. The money is supposed to go to education, health care and senior services.
Julia Nead, a Gresham cook, said she supported the measure after participating in the four-day review. But she said she's not absolutely sure she will vote for it in November.
"What it comes down to is: Are our schools going to be well-funded? Is our health care going to be taken care of?" Nead said. "But at the same time, are we going to impose a tax that causes businesses to leave the state of Oregon, or cut jobs or raise prices?"