Oregon voters approve array of measures

PORTLAND — A ballot measure that would have taxed Oregon businesses with $25 million or more in sales failed Tuesday, but voters approved ballot measures on an array of other issues.

Measures covering everything from guaranteed outdoor school for Oregon middle schoolers to additional funding for veterans' services to whether public universities should be allowed to play the stock market got the thumbs up at the polls.

Aside from Measure 97 — the tax measure — the only other measure to fail was one that would have lifted ban on state judges serving beyond the age of 75.

The broad sweep at the polls reflected the lack of controversy surrounding most of the measures, many of which were feel-good questions with little or no opposition.

"I voted yes on all of them," said Brian Wilcher, a 47-year-old account executive at a Portland staffing agency, as he dropped his ballot at a drop box.

Two of the ballot measures will rely on state lottery proceeds to pay for social and educational programs.

Measure 99 will take 4 percent of lottery proceeds a year — or up to $22 million — to provide a dedicated funding source for a week of outdoor school, a program that up to 90 percent of the state's sixth-graders once attended.

Now, only about half go on the outdoor education experience because of cuts at local school districts.

The measure will provide funding for 50,000 fifth- or sixth-graders to attend each year, including those who are home-schooled or go to private or charter schools.

"We are thrilled that voters recognized the tremendous value of this amazing Oregon legacy," said Rex Burkholder, chair of Yes on 99 campaign, said in a statement. "We had incredible support from a broad coalition of parents, teachers, conservation groups, and businesses who recognized that even in today's digital age nature is still one of our best classrooms to help ensure the future prosperity and well-being of Oregon and of Oregon's next generation."

Measure 96 will similarly take 1.5 percent of state lottery funds — or nearly $19 million every two years — for veterans' services.

The money will be used to help veterans access state and federal benefits, as well as for employment, education, housing, health care and treatment programs.

Opponents of these measures had argued that lottery proceeds are intended for statewide economic development, and funds should not be carved off for other programs, no matter how appealing the causes may seem.

Two other measures deal with education funding, but approached the problem in different ways.

Measure 95 amends the state constitution to allow public universities to invest student tuition or state appropriations in the stock market — a practice currently banned for state agencies, including Oregon's public universities.

Concerns about ways to raise money without increasing tuition led the University of Oregon to ask state lawmakers to put the measure on the ballot.

Measure 95 had no organized opposition; three university presidents have spoken in favor of it.

At the high school level, Measure 98 will use state funding to try to boost Oregon's high school graduation rate, which is among the worst in the nation.

Measure 98 calls for the Legislature to budget $800 for every Oregon high school student, or about $150 million each year, for programs that are known to improve graduation rates. The measure won't raise taxes and doesn't have a funding source, so critics worry about paying for the programs if state revenues fail to meet expectations.

Two ballot measures didn't involve identifying funding for new or existing programs.

Measure 100 bans commerce in the parts from 12 animal species that are poached at high rates, including elephants, rhinos, whales, sea turtles, tigers and leopards.

California and Washington state have similar bans, and proponents said the measure's intent is to make the West Coast less inviting for trafficking in animal parts.

Measure 100 includes exemptions for objects containing the animal parts, such as certain antiques that are at least 100 years old, certain musical instruments and products possessed by enrolled members of federally recognized Native American tribes.

"I'm extremely proud that Oregonians have done their part to stop the global poaching crisis," said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "Oregon has a long and proud history of supporting wildlife conservation."

No funding is set aside to enforce the ban, which would be the responsibility of the Oregon State Police's wildlife division.

Measure 94, a measure that would have amended Oregon's constitution to remove a ban on state judges serving beyond age 75, failed.