Voters will be asked on Jan. 23 to weigh in on Ballot Measure 101. They should say “no.” Measure 101 is a referendum on what lawmakers called an “assessment” — a tax by another name — on some health care insurers and providers in the state.

It was approved by the 2017 Oregon Legislature to keep the state’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan, solvent. State Reps. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn; Sal Esquivel, R-Medford; and Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg; have led the charge to have portions of that tax law repealed.

Many of the state’s hospitals would be charged 7/10ths of 1 percent on their revenues, in addition to a current 5.5 percent tax on revenues. The state’s coordinated care organizations, private health insurers and Public Employees’ Benefit Board would also be charged 1.5 percent on insurance premiums or premium equivalent revenues.

The money thus raised would go to fill a hole in the Oregon Health Plan’s budget.

If the measure is defeated, OHP will not only lose state taxes but matching funds from the federal government. But it does not mean that the state can’t find another way to fill the budget hole. The Legislature could also come up with a substitute. That’s why Democrats moved the election on Measure 101 to January.

Measure 101 imposes a sales tax, pure and simple, on revenues collected by health-care and health-insurance providers across the state, as if they are somehow responsible for OHP’s gap in funding.

Moreover, the 2017 Legislature, rather than addressing the long-term problems the state budget faces, punted, cobbled up a tax and left the real difficulties unaddressed.

Virtually all Oregonians will pay this tax if Measure 101 passes, and lawmakers will get the message: Disguise a new tax by levying it on, not the user of the service but the supplier, and Oregonians will swallow it whole. Vote “no” on Measure 101.

If you want to vote in that election but you have not yet registered, you have until Tuesday, Jan. 2. Registration may be done online until just before midnight that night; registration in person at your county clerk’s office must be completed during normal office hours that same day. You cannot complete online voter registration without a valid Oregon driver’s license, permit or identification card, and you must turn 18 on or before election day to receive a ballot.

19134586