Back to This Issue

This is not a paid advertisement

Lane County ballot measure 20-25, which would levy an 8% "surcharge" on income taxes in the name of "public safety," would be an ineffective rip-off.

BY JEROME COLE Lane County wants more of your money. Their latest request comes in the referral of ballot measure 20-25. This ballot measure would levy an 8% "surcharge" on your state income tax bill in order to support "public safety. " In reality, this measure won't make you any safer and it's downright dangerous for your wallet.

First off, let's get real: this measure would not impose a "surcharge." It would create a new tax. If county commissioners want more of our money, they should at least be honest about it and admit that they want to increase our taxes. And believe me, they want a lot more of your money. If you pay $5,000 per year in income taxes to the state you would get whacked with another $400 bill from Lane County. Among other things, the measure would fund a new drug court, increase social services for troubled children, add jail space, and 45% of the revenue generated would be shared with cities.

It's doubtful that any of these measures will make you any safer. Lane County admits on its website that "10% of all adult offenders in the jail are serious and violent offenders (e.g., assault, kidnap, murder, rape)." Most of the people in the jail are non-violent drug offenders. Every dollar that Lane County spends on jailing non-violent drug offenders is one less dollar spent on apprehending and punishing murderers and rapists. As long as Lane County continues to divert its resources to losing the War on Drugs, the citizens of Lane County will never be safe.

We have only a vague idea of how much of the money will be spent. The 45% earmarked for the cities comes with almost no strings attached. The text of the measure says that the money can be used for "community safety programs and activities for youth and adults, such as crime prevention, child abuse prevention, police and law enforcement services, prosecution, adjudication, parole and probation, treatment and training services, corrections and custody, and support services for such programs and activities." This definition is so broad that the money could be used for practically anything that could be remotely connected to crime prevention.

The measure even contains a clause that prohibits Lane County from intervening if a city spends its allocation on projects that have nothing to do with making us safer. We have no assurances whatsoever that the money from this tax increase will be spent on public safety. We only have the promises of politicians.

As if all this weren't bad enough, Lane County is actually using your tax dollars to promote Measure 20-25. The Lane County commission actually voted to spend $55,000 of your money on newspaper ads and radio spots that are clearly designed to promote the measure. Of course, the ads are thinly veiled as a "public information" campaign in order to circumvent laws against spending public money for political purposes.

Measure 20-25 is too expensive, it won't make us safer, and we only have vague ideas about how the money will be spent. Strike a blow for limited government and clean politics: vote no on Measure 20-25.