January 16, 2003 11:00 pm

Citizens have various reasons for supporting Measure 28, Oregon's temporary income tax increase proposal. They don't want to see their public schools short-changed to such a point that more teachers are laid off or programs are eliminated.

THEY STRUGGLE with Eastern Oregon University students having to pay a significant tuition increase. They don't want to see Oregon State Police trooper positions cut or have senior citizens' long-term care dramatically altered.

Beyond the social consequences that would occur if voters reject the measure on Jan. 28 is the devastating consequences to Northeast Oregon's economy.

Bob Nelson, manager of the area office of the Oregon Employment Department, looked at the local government programs and agencies that receive state and federal dollars, and did some number-crunching. Nelson estimates there will be an economic loss of $5.7 million to Union County if Measure 28 fails.

HUGE HITS would occur within the Seniors and Persons with Disabilities program of the Department of Human Resources, which provides assistance for people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and other services for senior citizens. The losses in the Department of Human Services locally is expected to run $4.2 million. Public schools throughout the county and EOU also would be hit hard if Measure 48 is rejected — to the tune of more than $800,000.

The loss of $5.7 million translates into more than 100 full- and part-time jobs that would go by the wayside. The loss of more than $400,000 a month in the economy likely would be felt by every business in Union County.

But what of the cost of Measure 28 to the taxpayer? State officials estimate the additional taxes paid will range between $17 and $107 a year for families with adjusted gross annual incomes ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Nelson estimates that Union County will see an overall tax increase of $632,000.

That figure represents a relatively small amount when compared to the state and federal dollars that would be lost to the local economy if state programs are cut. For every dollar a rural county might send to Salem, much more returns to meet residents' needs.

Passage of Measure 28 will not only keep important services in place, it makes good economic sense for all of Northeast Oregon. The Observer recommends a yes vote on 28.


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