Measure 101

These are the numbers from the Oregon Secretary of State as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Statewide

Yes: 564,471

No: 358,400

Deschutes County

Yes: 18,688

No: 17,133

Jefferson County

Yes: 2,240

No: 2,987

Crook County

Yes: 2,550

No: 4,217

SALEM — Measure 101, the health provider tax, appeared on its way to victory Tuesday night, buoyed by a strong get-out-the-vote effort by proponents.

With 30 percent of the eligible vote tallied, the “Yes” vote was winning by 60 percent to 40 percent, according to Secretary of State Dennis Richardson.

Early unofficial results show Measure 101 narrowly passing in Deschutes County, while trailing in Jefferson and Crook counties. The ballot measure trailed in Jefferson and Crook counties by significant margins.

“The voters have said loud and clear that everyone deserves access to affordable health care,” said Gov. Kate Brown, who backed Measure 101.

House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, who opposed Measure 101, said that it was now up to lawmakers to make sure the money is well spent in light of past problems with the Oregon Health Authority, which handles the Medicaid program in Oregon.

“I hope legislators on both sides of the aisle will make it a priority to safeguard and protect the investment in our state government that Oregon taxpayers have affirmed tonight,” McLane said.

Voters were asked to ratify or reject the Legislature’s decision last summer to place a 0.7 percent assessment on many hospitals, and a 1.5 percent assessment on the Public Employees Benefit Board, managed care organizations and insurers.

The statewide turnout for the special election was projected to be under 50 percent statewide. That compares to 62 percent for the January 2010 special election on two income tax ballot measures — 66 and 67.

Proponents said the taxes will bring in up to $1.3 billion in state and federal money to pay for low-income medical care in Oregon. Opponents said the taxes were unnecessary and unfairly targeted certain groups while having little affect on major corporations or labor unions.

The special election was the result of political maneuvering last summer. The Legislature narrowly approved the taxes, with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats to attain the three-fifths majority needed in both the House and Senate.

Before the Legislature adjourned, a group of Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn and Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg, said they would launch a signature-gathering drive to put the tax on the ballot as a referendum. Also joining as a chief sponsor was Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, who had provided the lone Republican vote to approve the legislation in the House, then switched sides — much to the anger and frustration of Brown and Democratic leaders.

Taking the likelihood of success in the signature drive seriously, Democrats swiftly used parliamentary moves to create a bill that would require that the tax vote be held in a special election in January 2018, rather than during the general election the following November. The bill was passed by both the House and Senate.

Brown signed both the tax and the bill, setting the election date. Opponents of the tax easily met the threshold for petition signatures, and the Secretary of State set the election for Jan. 23.

What appeared to have the makings of a major political clash did not come to pass as supporters of Measure 101 raised more than $3.5 million for an advertising and get-out-the-vote drive. Opponents primarily self-funded the campaign and were in the red as Election Day approached.

Opponents of the tax said that the January special election was an attempt to suppress voter turnout by placing a single issue on the ballot in the middle of winter. Supporters of the tax said that the constitutional requirement that the law be put on hold until a vote was held made it paramount that the decision on the tax come as soon as possible.

The election was also a preview of sorts for one possible scenario of the governor’s race.

Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, the leading GOP candidate for governor, opposed the legislation in the state House, supported the petition drive and once on the ballot, said he opposed Measure 101.

Brown, who had brokered the deal that enabled the original legislation to make it through the Legislature and then signed the bill into law, actively supported Measure 101.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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