Get ready for Measure 101 in January

Editorial Voice of the Chieftain

In 2017, it seemed like we never got a break from politics. And there will be no rest for the weary once we turn the calendar to 2018.

The political season will get off to a fast start next year, with Oregon voters having an important referendum in January, followed by important primaries in May and a critical election awaiting again in November.

So what’s this January thing about?

It’s Measure 101, a referendum on health insurance premium taxes that were approved by the state Legislature during the previous session. Opponents of the taxes gathered signatures to put pieces of that package before voters.

The whole process has been controversial since the beginning. Some argue the referendum process is a bad way to set complicated tax policy. Others say the ballot language itself is biased, arguing the semantics of “tax” against “assessment.” And they argued some more over the date that the actual vote will tax place. (It’s January 23).

All this ... and we haven’t even gotten to the meat of the issue, which has both sides taking principled and impassioned stands on how critical their victory is.

Opponents say the tax allows legislators a “back door” to suck health care into the general fund, which will eventually lead to worse health budgets and outcomes.

Proponents of the tax say this is the least-harmful way to take a step toward guaranteeing health care for more Oregonians, perhaps as many as 300,000, including nearly 1,000 in Wallowa County, by some estimates.

We’re digging deep into the issue over the next month, so look for editorials on the subject before ballots go out.

Take this seriously. You are likely to hear exaggerations from both sides, but there is no debating the fact that this is an important issue that will be decided by relatively few informed voters. Do your best to make sure you are one.

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