Bend Bulletin scolds Measure 50

The Bend Bulletin Editorial Board is getting a statewide reputation for being the toughest editorial board in the state, willing to pound out tough questions to both sides of an issue.
This is good, because a lot of really bad politically correct legislation can’t defend themselves against thorough interrogation. This week teh Bend Bulletin provided a bold exposing of Measure 50. Usually we provide the highlights, but the whole darn thing is priceless.

Numbering ballot measures is a convenient, if unimaginative, way to keep track of them. But the more we learn about Measure 50, the more we wonder whether a more descriptive labeling method might be warranted. Like, say, punctuation marks. Given how uncertain the measure’s effects will be, for instance, we wonder whether it really should be called “Measure ?”

A couple of the more obvious questions have received extensive coverage already. Is it fair to tax a politically vulnerable population (smokers) to pay for unrelated programs (health care for poor and middle-class kids)? Assuming voters approve the tax, will it provide a sustainable funding source for these programs?

The answer to these questions, at least, is fairly clear: no. But even if Measure 50 were fair and sustainable, it would be dogged by another serious question: Will the federal government allow Oregon to do everything that Measure 50 proposes? Don’t bet on it.

The measure, for instance, would subsidize health care for Oregon families making up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $62,000 for a family of four. Such generosity to middle-class families would require a waiver from the federal government. Not only has the state obtained no such waiver, but new federal rules suggest it won’t happen. According to The Associated Press, Uncle Sam now requires a nearly impossible standard for states that want to expand health care for kids in families making more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level. States must first enroll at least 95 percent of kids in families earning less than 200 percent of the poverty level.

Whether Measure 50 passes or fails, the willingness of lawmakers to serve up something so flawed will cost them a substantial share of their moral authority. No longer will those who support Measure 50 feel quite so free to blast citizen petitioners for targeting vulnerable minorities, for mischaracterizing their work, for amending the constitution unnecessarily, and for inviting unintended consequences. Unless they’re OK with hypocrisy, that is.

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