TWO REASONS WHY MEASURE 30 MIGHT PASS
By Bill Sizemore
January 27, 2004
Don’t be fooled by the low-key, below-the-radar campaign being waged by the supporters of Measure 30. A strong pro-Measure 30 campaign is being waged, and this historic race, which is being watched across the country, could go either way.
Even though Measure 30 contains the largest tax increase in Oregon history; and even though Oregon voters, when given the choice, have not approved an increase in the state income tax since the tax was first imposed 75 years ago; this tax increase still has a reasonable chance of passing.
Two things you should keep in mind: Elections are not decided by the majority of registered voters. They are decided by those who actually cast a ballot. That is an important distinction, because the public employee unions are working hard to get-out-the-vote in those counties, and specifically in those precincts, which historically have voted their way.
If you live in a neighborhood that tends to vote “No” on tax increase, don’t expect a reminder to vote from the public employee unions. They would be happy, if you forgot all about the election. In fact, they’re counting on it.
The second thing to keep in mind regarding this election is that in today’s high-tech world it is possible to wage a major campaign without anyone seeing a single ad on his or her television screen.
As I write this column, thousands of phones are ringing across the state. Well-manned phone banks are busily contacting voters around the clock with their fear-mongering message of doom and gloom and their tear jerking appeals to emotion. As you know, liberals are professionals, when it comes to manipulating emotions, and have refined guilt manipulation to an art form.
Many are not aware that under-the-radar telephone campaigns are waged with an entirely different set of rules than high profile media campaigns. Arguments can be made over the telephone that would not stand up to the public scrutiny to which television and radio campaigns often are subjected. In other words, telephone campaigns allow the truth to be stretched much thinner than with television campaigns, and thus can be more effective at changing unsuspecting minds.
Supporters of Measure 30 are airing their mainstream messages in their statewide radio ads, but reserving their hard sell messages for their telephone campaign. It would be a mistake for our side to underestimate the effect of a personal phone call from a parent of a school-age child or from a single mom, who claims that she is going to lose her health care, if Measure 30 passes. Such calls can be far more effective than a television ad.
Here’s another reason why the spenders could win this one. While many of us are looking at maybe a $200 to $500 increase in our income taxes, there is more than a billion dollars at stake for them. We are motivated. They are highly motivated.
While many conservatives are sitting back, confident that this record breaking tax increase is going down, the spenders could beat us by working harder and being better organized than we are. Remember they garnered about 46 percent of the vote on a similar measure last year, and are running a much more organized campaign this time. They don’t have that far to go to win this time.
Plus, supporters have something else going for them this time around. In addition to the billion-dollar tax increase, the legislature passed a second bill that implements specific spending cuts, which are set to go into effect if the tax increase is rejected by voters. This is a calculated strategy on their behalf.
Their ploy is devilishly clever. Sponsors of the tax increase knew that by passing a bill that implements specific cuts that will go into effect if the tax measure fails, supporters then could go out and say in their campaign ads that specific, dire things will occur, if voters vote “No” on Measure 30. Schools will be cut. Needy people will be cut off of the Oregon Health Plan. Forensic labs will not have the personnel to process the evidence submitted to them by law enforcement agencies, which means that crimes will go unpunished and rapists and murderers may be back on the streets.
Never mind that the legislature can and probably will meet in special session, if Measure 30 fails, and set all new priorities for any cuts that may be required, because none of the cuts included in that bill are set in stone. The sponsors simply needed fodder for their campaign so they created the fodder themselves and put an “official” stamp on it. They know they can reprioritize the cuts any time they wish, but having them on the books for now serves their political purpose.
It is interesting that many have failed to note that the Yes on 30 campaign actually started a year ago. Why do you think Multnomah County Sheriff, Bernie Giusto, with an arrogant smirk on his face, let a bunch of bad guys out of jail in front of the television cameras immediately after Measure 28 failed last January? This politician with a sheriff’s badge wanted to make sure that voters saw with their own eyes that there were real consequences to voting down his tax increase. (In a normal county, there would have been a recall petition out on Sheriff Giusto the next day.)
Why do you think many schools spent money that they were reasonably certain they didn’t really have last year, and then closed their doors early? Closing the schools weeks early may seem unconscionable to you and me, but remember, those kinds of things work in the other side’s favor the next time they ask for more money.
Forgive my cynicism, but there is nothing like opening the doors at the jail and closing the doors at the school to make the voters pay for their stinginess.
Over the years, the elitists have learned that they must make the voters feel real pain any time they lose money that they had anticipated having; otherwise those of us who comprise the ignorant masses might come to believe that government budgets are bloated and that they didn’t really need that money in the first place. You see, it doesn’t help their cause to make cuts in places that no one will notice.
I recall a Town Hall television show I attended at Channel 2, the ABC network affiliate in Portland, when the superintendent of the Portland School District at the time, Jack Bierwirth, bragged on the air that in response to Measure 5 he and the Portland school board had made millions of dollars in cuts without hurting the kids.
KPAM radio personality Dwight James, then a sports reporter for The Oregonian, wiped the smirk of Mr. Bierwirth’s face when he asked the superintendent what those millions of dollars were doing in the budget in the first place, if they could be removed without affecting the kids.
Good question, Dwight. Bierwirth didn’t say, but I will tell you what those dollars were doing there. They were being wasted on totally unnecessary things, simply because the money was available; proving once again that government budgets will expand to consume all money available to them, needed or not, and that waste will only be identified and cut when there is absolutely no alternative.
Dwight James’ question was indeed an astute one, but in the end probably encouraged the spenders administering the Portland School District to make all future cuts in areas that would directly affect the kids, and then make sure that the cuts were wide published.
Finally, we should be careful not to judge the other side’s campaign just by the amount of money they spend on radio ads and phone banks. Across the state, supporters of the billion tax increase have received millions of dollars in free advertisements in the form of disingenuous “news” stories in The Oregonian, The Eugene Register Guard, The Bend Bulletin, The Medford Mail Tribune, The Salem Statesman Journal, and most of the other daily newspapers in the state. This is no small contribution.
Over the past couple of months, the hundreds of thousands of readers of these publications have been subjected to more pro-Measure 30 stories than I have seen supporting any tax election in my memory. Liberal editors have pulled out all the stops this time. They are flexing their muscles for all to see.
By my calculation, the pro-Measure 30 crowd couldn’t buy the free advertising they are receiving from the shameless, liberal editors, who infest the editorial boards of newspapers all across Oregon, even on the conservative, east side of the state.
Don’t get too depressed; it’s not all bad news for our side. We Oregonians have heard the “sky is falling” rhetoric so many times now that most of us have been anesthetized to it all. It just goes in one ear and out the other. It’s those “swing” voters in inner Clackamas and Washington County that we have to be concerned about. Over the years, living that close to Portland has affected their reasoning. They are more susceptible to the fear-mongering than the rest of us.
After all has been said and done, what should we conservatives being doing right now to insure that we don’t get stuck with this billion-dollar tax increase? First, don’t put too much faith in talk radio as an election tool. Sure, talk show hosts are getting the word out effectively to their audiences, but less than 25 percent of radio listeners listen to AM radio stations and most of them are already on our side. As much fun as it is, most of talk radio is just preaching to the choir.
You could do more good for the cause by calling someone who hasn’t voted and getting them to the polls than you possibly could by calling Lars Larson or Victor Boc and speaking to the thousands who are listening, but already agree with you. Lars and Victor will make sure their listeners know there is an election going on. Don’t worry about that. It’s your neighbors and co-workers you ought to be worried about.
If you want to see Measure 30 tossed on to the trash heap of Oregon history, where it belongs, the most important thing you can do these next few days is to vote yourself, and call everyone you know who is a conservative or undecided and make sure that they vote and vote wisely. There are enough of us to win this campaign easily, if we can all be persuaded to cast our ballots, but we won’t be. Tens of thousands of conservatives will forget to vote in this election and therein lies our vulnerability.
Be sure of this one thing: There is more at stake with Measure 30 than meets the eye. If Measure 30 passes, the legislature and local governments across the state will interpret that victory as a clear sign that Oregon voters are finally willing to tolerate higher taxes. Believe me, if that is the message they hear on February 3rd, they will be more than happy to oblige. Measure 30 will be just the beginning.
© 2004 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved
Bill Sizemore is a registered Independent who
works as executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, a statewide
taxpayer organization. Bill was the Republican candidate for governor
in 1998. He and his wife Cindy have four children, ages eight to thirteen,
and live on 36 acres in Beavercreek, just southeast of Oregon City, Oregon.
"Two things you should keep in mind: Elections are not decided by the majority of registered voters. They are decided by those who actually cast a ballot."