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Measure 62 may take a bite out of crime as well as school budgets October 3, 2008

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Oregon voters will have to choose between public safety and public schools on the November ballot.

Under Measure 62, a yes vote would set aside 15 percent of state lottery profits for district attorneys, sheriffs and state police investigations that measure co-sponsor Kevin Mannix says get short shrift by Oregon lawmakers. The 15 percent amount would be carved into the state constitution.

A no vote would allow lawmakers to continue to spend that money on schools. At stake is about $200 million every two years. Because roughly half of Oregon’s lottery money is tied up by state law or the constitution, most of the $200 million would come from schools.

For Doug Harcleroad, retiring district attorney for Lane County, the question is easy in a county that’s been hammered by low property taxes and the loss of federal timber money. The county operates only 93 of 500 jail beds, he says, and releases about a dozen people a day because of overcrowding.

“We let out sex offenders and gun violators and domestic violence offenders. We let out terrible people who shouldn’t be let out, and some of them re-offend,” Harcleroad says.

But opponents say the measure would hurt classrooms and give an unexpected windfall to counties and to specific Oregon State Police units.

The Defend Oregon Coalition, which includes unions, teachers, seniors citizens and human services groups, figures schools would lose about $185 million and economic development about $20 million.

“I’m afraid in the absence of a campaign, people’s attitude might be: 15 percent for crime? Sounds good to me. And the question is whether they know it’s at the expense of education,” says Steve Novick with Defend Oregon.

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