HB 2414: Yes-No Fraud bill stopped. Newspapers hotly agree.

Taxpayer Association of Oregon Bill Watch:

HB 2414 which changes referendum elections by changing people’s YES votes to NO votes, and No votes to YES votes, was pulled back to committee after a flood of angry callers and a rare bloody ripping by the press. The Statesman Journal called them “Losers” and the Oregonian called them “bullies”

Salem Statesman Journal, Editorial- “Winners and Losers”, June 26, 2009

LOSER: Oregon’s Democratic legislative leaders. They’re changing the rules for referendums, in case this year’s tax increases wind up being taken to voters.A legislative budget committee approved HB2414, which includes this language: “For purposes of this subsection, a measure is considered adopted if it is rejected by the people.” In other words, a “no” vote would mean voters endorsed the tax increases.

Summoning the fog
by The Oregonian Editorial Board
Thursday June 25, 2009, 5:49 PM
In an effort to keep their tax increase package intact, Democrats in the Legislature spin some unfortunate semantic skullduggery

One of the more devilish playground tricks played by bullying third-graders is the old switcheroo, as in: “Do you want me to hit you? ‘Yes’ means ‘no,’ and ‘no’ means ‘yes.'” It was a tactic intended to take advantage of confused victims, and it usually worked.

That’s more or less what Democrats on the Joint Ways and Means Committee did late Wednesday, slipping in some language intended to induce or take advantage of voter confusion in hopes of keeping the Oregon Legislature’s recently passed tax package intact.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, listen to a sample of the new language inserted into House Bill 2414:

“A measure referred to the people by referendum petition may not be adopted unless it receives an affirmative majority of the total votes cast on the measure rejecting the measure. For purposes of this subsection, a measure is considered adopted if it is rejected by the people.”

Got that? Do you want me to hit you?

In a game where everybody thinks two steps ahead, the Democrats on the committee expect that Republicans will go over their heads to voters in an effort to block the tax increases adopted by the Democratic-led Legislature. Oregon’s director of FreedomWorks, an anti-tax group, has promised to kick at least two of the adopted tax increases to the public ballot. Wednesday’s switcheroo was the Democrats’ anticipatory counterstrike.

Politicians know that when voters are confronted with a ballot measure that costs public money, the undecideds often vote no. So by inverting the meaning of “yes” and “no,” they think they will hoodwink enough Oregonians to preserve their tax package.

It’s a shame that what should be an open debate on some of the most important issues facing Oregon has degenerated into a devious game of wordplay. It’s the kind of thing that invites voters to distrust politicians.

The stakes are very high for Oregon, which surely is why Democrats, with their secure majorities and control of the Statehouse, thought they should employ every arrow in their quiver to make sure their revenue package prevails. But by avoiding a public hearing and ramming through the misleading wording, they have shown that they fear voters more than they trust them.

If they trusted them, they would face them with confidence, explaining why they believe it is good for the people of Oregon to raise taxes. We need to keep schools whole, they might say, or we need to make sure that we don’t abandon our most vulnerable citizens, or we need to make sure we can maintain and improve our deteriorating infrastructure: There are lots of good arguments for their revenue-raising package.

But they suspect, probably correctly, that most voters living through the worst recession of their lives are likely to say no to higher taxes.

But through the magic of the rewritten House Bill 2414, many Oregonians will only think they’re saying no to higher taxes. What they’ll really be saying is “Please, sir, I’d like some more.”