Measure 50 defeat sends Congress a message

PoliticsOregon voters sent Congress a message on Tuesday when they voted down a new cigarette tax to pay for children’s health insurance. The vote was 60% against and 40% in favor of funding the so-called Healthy Kids Plan.

Measure 50 would have locked an 84.5 cent per pack increase into the Oregon Constitution to fully fund health insurance for children in families up to 200% of the federal poverty level. It would have partially subsidized insurance for kids in families from 200% to 300% of the poverty level.

Voters apparently weren’t willing to saddle just smokers with the cost of this expensive new government program, and they didn’t buy claims that a declining revenue source could cover rising health insurance premiums for very long.

Oregon U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer said before the vote that passage would be “a shot in the arm” for federal SCHIP efforts that aim to expand a similar health care program in which states get federal tobacco tax money to provide children’s health insurance.

On the flip side, Oregon’s Democratic Governor Kulongoski warned, “If you can defeat it here in Oregon, you send a chilling message to the rest of the country.”

Well, it was soundly defeated here in liberal-leaning Oregon. The resultant chill of federal SCHIP efforts will hopefully encourage consumer-driven health care advocates to redouble our efforts.

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank.

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Posted by at 10:53 | Posted in Measure 37 | 25 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Wayne Brady

    I certainly hope the people in Washington, DC learn from the defeat of Measure 50. I will be surprised though. They are so isolated from the public that they miss some of these lessons.

  • devietro

    Measure 50 failed for a lot of reasons. Some of them are simple like the fact that its outrageous to have one minority pay for everybody’s health care. The record money from tobacco companies is what it took to battle the Oregon legislature. Lets hope that this day lives in the memories when the Oregon legislature thinks about socialized medicine.

    Also off topic but let us not forget that today is a BAD, very bad day for landowners and families all across the state with the passage of M49.

    • eddie

      Oh, Measure 49 passing isn’t quite so bad… it’s kind of mixed. While, sure, it torpedoes 37 under the guise of clarification, you have to admit that all local governments hostile to 37 weren’t actually allowing the process to proceed anyway, and they never would. Besides, now the bureaucrats can move on and do something besides thinking up new ways to stonewall on 37 claims.

      Besides, I take offense with your use of the term “landowners”… I submit that there are no landowners in Oregon. With the overly constrictive legislation controlling what few uses to which you can put your land, and high fees, taxes, permits and whatnot further limiting land use… I don’t think you can argue that land “ownership” in Oregon is what is traditionally meant by “ownership”… As far as Oregon is concerned, I think we lease small claims to land at a high price.

      In fact, since my wife wants to add a room onto our house in the near future, I’d better figure out who to write in Salem and Portland City Hall to ask what color we should make it… and which limb I have to cut off in order to receive permission.

  • Rick Hickey

    Americans overall, even registered Democrats obviously, do not want the Gov’t to control our health care needs period.
    They can’t issue Passports, can’t build roads and bridges, Can’t pass NCLB in a majority of our Schools, do not insure that only U.S. citizens are voting, give anyone a License/photo ID, waste $55 million on a Tram, every week we read about how they mis spend or flat out waste our tax dollars.
    We do not want them in charge of our medical needs either.

    Yet Gov. Ted (King Socialist) says the Legislature will have to keep trying, so Democrats will continue to ignore the people that pay them?!
    Isn’t that why we had a War with England?
    Democrats non stop goal to Socialize America must stop.
    Next elections I hope we have a political “Tea Party”, with these Kings & Queens.

  • DMF

    It’s time to throw the Democrats out too. H-m-m-m

  • Jerry

    People are not stupid…even though that is what Ted says. What a fool!
    Oh, the children. Whatever will we do now???
    Maybe we could tax Big Macs $2.00 each. That might work.
    If it wasn’t such a waste of time and money the whole pathetic attempt these fools made to give “children” health care would be comic.
    Sadly, it isn’t funny at all.
    These people are completely and totally insane.


    I’m sorry 49 passed but it really doesn’t affect me so I’m not too bummed.

    I’m thrilled 50 failed since it would have amended the constitution. They also were insuring too many kids with parents who could afford to pay for their own insurance.

    • Steve Buckstein

      Crawdude, don’t be so certain that the passage of M49 doesn’t affect you. M49 was about limiting property rights in this state, and property is more than just land and houses.

      Everyone is at risk when government doesn’t respect, and protect, the property rights of its citizens.

      • dean


        I’m waiting with baited breath to see how your “consumer driven health care” reforms are going to insure 100,000 kids and their families who cannot afford private insurance, yet are not poor enough to quality for government funded insurance.

        And “respecting private property rights” does cut both ways, which is why so many rural Oregonians voted along with urban ones to limit development in areas where it does not belong. Zoning land has ALWAYS been about protecting private property rights: those of the neighbors. We don’t each live on our own little island after all.

        • Steve Buckstein

          Dean, while there is no one magic bullet to help those 100,000 kids right now, I continue to suggest that lawmakers and others work to reduce both the cost of health care and health insurance using market mechanisms and putting consumers in more control over their own health care decisions, even if “we” subsidize part or all of their health care spending. We can do that through reducing health insurance mandates, introducing HSA type plans that fund routine care outside of the insurance model and allowing Oregonians to purchase insurance across state lines. You can find a number of papers on these issues at Cascade’s Health Care Policy site.

          On property rights, sorry, but unless what you do with your own property is a direct threat to the health and/safety of your neighbors I don’t agree that those neighbors get to tell you what you can do with your property, especially when they change the rules after you bought the property. That’s what Measure 37 was attempting to address.

          Restrictive covenants are another thing. If you and your neighbors voluntarily agree to limit what each of you can do on your own property that’s fine, but what the majority of Oregon voters did on Tuesday is not voluntary at all. Zoning picks winners and losers instead of finding ways for everyone to be a winner in the sense that all property owners agree to the deal.

        • CRAWDUDE

          Dean, I would say insuring a child whose parents make 80+ thousand a year is hardly a child whose parents can’t afford health insurance. They might have to give up one of the quads or fishing boat, those people can well afford insurance.

          Besides putting it in the constitution the other problem I had with it was the income ceiling of the parents.

          I know too many people who don’t insure themselves or family because it cuts into their play money. A little personal responsibility goes a long way. Lower income children qualify for the Oregon Health Plan and those whose parents are on welfare qualify for Medicaid and Medicare. It’s not covering these kids that’s the problem, it’s getting their parents to care enough to take the time to enroll them in what’s available.

          • dean


            I appreciate your position as a philosophical point. As a practical matter, communities have been regulating land use since the Middle Ages, initially for health and safety reasons, but subsequently for reasons having much more to do with protecting property values. For example, if my neighbor is allowed to build a 20 story building that puts me completely in shade, destroys my privacy, and makes local traffic unbearable there is no health or safety issue. But he has seriously impacted the value of my place. If you really do want to overturn all zoning, you have a tough row to hoe.

            On health care, we have had 13 years since the Clinton plan crashed and burned. Our mixed system (some private, some government provided, some subsidized,) is by cost and health measures among the least efficient and least effective in the developed world.

            Whatever proposals you have at Cascade, where is the political effort to get the votes and make those happen? The longer the present mess continues the closer we get to a Democratic alternative, which is fine by me but you may not like the end result.

            And Crawdude…we can’t make public policy decisions based on anecdote. You may know people who you think are making bad decisions, like financing a new Hummer instead of health care. I don’t know of anyone who makes that sort of decision myself. I do know that statistically health care costs are going up faster than incomes, that many businesses are cutting back on their contributions, many others provide nothing or next to nothing to low income workers, and self-employed indies like myself are really struggling to pay for isurance. make the mortgage, and contribute to the kids college tuition.

            So I don’t agree it is a parental issue. But the proposals I have seen from the Dems nationally do make insurance buying a mandate with help for those who cannot afford it, so you should support those. I have seen no serious proposals for a single payer system OR putting doctors on the public payfroll outside of the VA system (i.e. socialized medicine).

            And while I agreed with the basic arguments that the ciggarette tax was not the best way to fund health care for kids, today we still have 100,000 Oregon kids with no health care. I would not call that a “victory” if I were a conservative.

          • CRAWDUDE

            Having everyone insured is a noble cause but I think we have opposing views on how to get there.

            This battle should never have been fought, it was part of a national strategy by the Liberals to highlight the SCHIP bill. They assumed the Oregon voters would be snowed by M50 supporters, they weren’t and the whole thing blew up in the face. They were hoping to point at Oregon as their example for SCHIP, now they haven’t one and the people of Oregon will be leary of ever passing a bill like it again. Bad Politicians at their best!

  • Steve Buckstein


    Briefly, Measure 37 did not do away with any zoning, it simply said you should be allowed to do with your property what you could have done when you bought it, or be compensated for the loss of value that occurred with laws passed after you bought it. Measure 49 takes away the bulk of those protections.

    On health care, my organization has been discussing market-oriented and consumer-driven alternatives with legislators and others for years. We made presentations to interim and legislative session health care committees and have brought experts to the Capitol to share their knowledge. We continue to do so whenever the opportunity arises.

    • dean


      I was referring to your comment about zoning picking winners and losers, not M37. I agree it did not do away with zoning, but did make current zoning irrelevant for over 7000 landowners, sometimes at the expense of their neighbors.

      On the larger point, loss of value, I think for the most part that was over stated by M37 proponents, as demonstrated by the recent OSU land value study. Basic land values have not been reduced by zoning in Oregon, and even ag land has been a solid investment. Speculative land values available through older zoning have been interupted.

      On health care policy, I say Mazeltov! Show us lefties a free market system with universal (or at least near) coverage that is fair, affordable, and effective and I’ll sign on.

      • Steve Buckstein

        Dean, the fact that the OSU study didn’t find land values reduced by zoning ignores the fact that some properties would have much greater economic value than they do now if zoning hadn’t limited the owners’ opportunities.

        On health care, “fair, affordable, and effective” are obviously in the eye of the beholder. Would it have been “fair” to tax smokers to provide “affordable and effective” health care to other people’s children? In my personal view, no system that requires one person to pay for another person’s health care is “fair” although given political realities I think we can both find “less unfair” ways to achieve better health care for everyone.

        If you want an example of a system that offers universal coverage in which “lefties” and free-market advocates may both get much of what they want, check out “Bridging the Ideological Divide” at

        • dean


          Okay…I’ll check out your policy proposal.

          No, it would not have been at all fair to put the whole burden on smokers, which is probably why the measure was defeated. But your personal view, if carried out in policy terms, ends with the rich and upper middle classes having health care, and a Charles Dickens world for the rest I fear. I’ll take Canada or France over that any day.

          Yes, some properties would have greater value had they not been restricted. But isn’t that in large part because their neighbors were still restricted? I mean, if you blow the land use door completely open then the land values would basically relfect location right? The closer to a city the more an acre would be worth. M37 had such selective benefits that it was hardly a good example of free market land economics. It was simply a good for the few at the expense of the many.

          And as I have argued before, if I had 100 acres of ag land in 1970 that could have been divided, but I chose not to do so back then, and the land use change that came was well advertised and vetted through my elected officials, do I really have a complaint? Why didn’t I just go ahead and divide when I had the chance if that is what my intent all along was? How can I ask for 2007 land value for a division I did not choose to make in 1970? Isn’t free market economics about people making good and bad choices?

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, I have not argued here that there should be no subsidies for health care, just that M50 was a poor and expensive approach. I think you’ll see that the proposal I suggested you read is far from a Charles Dickens world.

            Just because in 1970 you didn’t foresee a higher use of your property in 2007 doesn’t mean you should forfeit your right to achieve that higher use later.

            Property rights are fundamental to a free, prosperous society and I’m afraid that Oregon is moving in the wrong direction by further restricting them. I don’t think either of us will be surprised if passage of 49 doesn’t end the debate.

          • dean


            But where do your subsidies come from? You argued earlier that you oppose taking from the richer to give to the poorer right? In order to subsidize one party, wouldn’t you have to take something from a wealthier party?

            My 1970 example was meant to point out that things change. Policies, markets, opportunities all come and go. Timing the market is important. One can’t expect the world to simply stand still while one decides what to do with one’s investment, whether that is real property or securities. The fundamental premise of M37 was that land owners should be permanently insulated from changes in public policy. That takes risk out of the picture and goes against free market economics.

            Private land developers know how risky their business is, which is why they don’t buy land very far in advance of when they can do something with it.

            I’m not arguing against property rights. I am saying they are not absolute, and never have been. I would modify your statement to say: Well regulated property rights are fundamental to a free, prosperous, and environmentaly healthy society.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, I think you’ll find some government subsidies move money from lower to higher income individuals. Just think about subsidies to corporations. I oppose those just like I opposed the M50 subsidies.

            As I said to legislators in the last session before M50 was formulated, if they thought subsidizing health care for low income kids was a state priority, they should think about paying for it through the general fund rather than singling out smokers or some other relatively politically powerless group.

            I’ll leave the general investment risk discussion for another time except to say that government changing the rules of the land use game after someone buys property is a little like the dealer in a casino changing the card game rules after players have put their money down.

          • dean


            In the earlier post you said “I have not argued here there should be no subsidies for health care.” In your last post you said “I oppose those (subsidies) just like I opposed M50 subsidies.”

            You can see my cause for confusion. Do you or do you not support subsidies for families who cannot afford private health insurance, yet are ineligable for Medicaid? If the answer is yes, then what subsidies do you support? And who would you take the money from? If no, then how would you get health care to these families?

            On your casino analogy, it is clever, but misses the point. Every investment decision is based on present rules and some risk calculation that those rules could change. When the feds ordered automobile companies to install catalytic converters to lessen air pollution, that affected their bottom line. Same with seatbelts. Same with CAFE standards. If you owned stock at GM you could make the exact same complaint that the casino changed the rules after the bets were down. Of course in this case it is a democratically elected government making and changing rules, not a private casino where we have no say.

            What makes real property different from other investments, assuming that you bought the property not simply as a home, but as an investment? You are a free market economist right? Are you saying rules should never change, no matter changes in conditions, knowledge, or values?

            Here is your chance to enlighten a poor old muddled liberal.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, sorry for the confusion. I am not advocating any health care subsidies, just pointing out that some subsidies might be worse than others on a “fairness” scale. To the extent such subsidies already exist, I suggest that there may better ways to spend them to achieve their stated goals.

            My original post here was about M50, not property rights, so I’ll end my attempts to enlighten by simply making the point that M49 is a step backward from the protection of property rights granted by M37.

            Even M37 allowed some of the kinds of restrictions on property rights you speak of such as for health and safety reasons, and it gave an option to governments of waiving the rules or compensating owners for loss of value. It recognized that the rule and value changes you mention went way too far in Oregon. We obviously disagree on this point, but then I apparently disagree with a majority of those who voted for M49.

          • dean

            Fair enough Steve. I’m not completely hostile to the idea of a “regulatory takings” statute in Oregon. My problems with M37 are that it was retroactive, it did not require owners to show an actual loss of value, lacked any proportionality (any loss of value, including purely speculative value was to be paid for,) and it did not identify any means for “the government,” meaning we the taxpayers, to pay compensation. I think M49 was a poor fix, but at least it prevents large scale land development projects where they do not belong.

            On M50 going down, we seem back to square one. Intelligent free market advocates such as yourself need to come up with a politically viable program that provides at least basic health care to all, or you will have to accept that we on the left will eventually prevail on this issue. The health care ship just has too many widening holes, and water is coming on board. Throwing increasing numbers of working class people over the side is a lousy, unsustainable solution.

            But thanks for the constructive exchange.

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