Ballot measures are not always the best way to conduct public policy, but they do give voters an important opportunity to have their say.
Voters have used ballot measures to control how much property taxes can go up. They have used ballot measures to tax themselves more. And they have used them to try to limit the size of government.
The power of the initiative process makes almost any proposal to tweak it controversial. For instance, when former Secretary of State Dennis Richardson proposed a step toward making it easier to get things on the ballot last year, union-backed Our Oregon filed a lawsuit to stop him.
This legislative session there is a bill, House Bill 3348, that would make another change to how ballot measures work. This one should be approved by the Legislature, though we are not sure if it will actually do much.
HB 3348 has to do with the money to pay for programs created by ballot measures. Basically if a measure creates a financial obligation for the state and doesn’t have a way to pay for it, the idea of the bill is to let people know that. The bill says if the secretary of state finds that a ballot measure with no dedicated funding source will have a financial effect on public expenditures in excess of $100,000, the following statement would be required to be printed in the voters’ pamphlet: “MEASURE SPENDS MONEY WITHOUT IDENTIFYING A FUNDING SOURCE”.
Would passage of this bill suddenly create more fiscal responsibility among people who submit ballot measures? No. Would that statement about a measure sway voters? Maybe.
It would be, though, additional factual information that should be a consideration for voters — no matter what the measure is about. The thing is any voter who does homework on a ballot measure will already likely know if a ballot measure is proposing to launch some new government program without providing any money for it. HB 3348 would simply make it easier for those voters to find that out.