January 22, 2003 11:00 pm
MEASURING 28'S IMPACT: Mark Kubin said that the failure of Measure 28 would cost the CHD $58,000 over the next six months. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
MEASURING 28'S IMPACT: Mark Kubin said that the failure of Measure 28 would cost the CHD $58,000 over the next six months. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Union County District Attorney Martin Birnbaum expects to have more cases to prosecute if Measure 28 goes down.

Should Measure 28 be defeated by Oregon voters Tuesday, state funding for social services will be cut. Programs like drug and mental health treatment programs will be cut back.

"When social services go down the crime rate always goes up,'' Birnbaum said.

The district attorney said that when mental health and drug treatment programs are cut, aggressive behavior in communities increases.

"My office will be busier,'' said Birnbaum, who was among those who spoke Wednesday at a forum at Eastern Oregon University on Measure 28, the state's temporary income tax surcharge.

Mark Kubin, the Center for Human Development's community relations coordinator, said the failure of Measure 28 would cost the CHD $58,000 over the next six months. This will result in cuts for adult mental health and children's mental health services.

"Measure 28 gets everyone's emotions going,'' Kubin said.

He said that cuts in social service programs are particularly hard to deal with now because of the reductions the CHD has already had to make and faces in the next biennium due to state budget shortfalls.

"We are in a crisis management mode. We are trying to deal with it day to day,'' Kubin said.

"Measure 28 will not solve all of our problems but it will help get us through the next six months,'' he said.

Birnbaum noted that the Oregon State Police will likely face significant cuts if Measure 28 goes down.

He said that things like forensic lab services might be reduced. He said this will make it harder to prosecute cases.

The OSP may also lose a number of people skilled in the area of DNA analysis. This will make it harder to handle rape and DNA cases, the district attorney said. He noted that DNA testing not only makes it possible to catch criminals, but protects those who are falsely accused.

"DNA is useful as a sword and also very useful as a shield,'' Birnbaum said.

Other speakers Wednesday included Darlene Morgan, EOU's vice president for business and finance.

She addressed concerns about the added tuition EOU students will have to pay if Measure 28 fails.

Eastern undergraduates will pay an extra $12.50 per credit hour for tuition during winter and spring terms if Measure 28 is rejected. Graduate students will be charged an additional $50 for each credit hour.

Students will not suddenly be faced with an extra tuition bill if Measure 28 fails, because they paid the surcharge when they started winter term classes. Should Measure 28 pass, students will be reimbursed for the surcharge.

Morgan noted that the impact will be greater in an immediate sense because EOU has less than a half year to make up for lost revenue if Measure 28 fails. This is because there are only five months left in the 2001-03 biennium.

Morgan said the potential impact would not have been as great if the cut could have spread out over two years.

Kubin noted that passage of Measure 28 would send an important message to legislators.

"It would tell legislators that we value public education, human services and public safety and want to fund them,'' he said.

Wednesday's forum was put on by EOU's student government.