Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) issued a formal statement opposing Measure 99 on Aug. 30. At a meeting earlier in the year, a quorum of the EDCO Board of Directors unanimously opposed the initiative petition (at that time, Initiative Petition 67).
Measure 99 asks voters to permanently dedicate up to $44 million per biennium of the Oregon Lottery to nonprofit corporation Outdoor School for All. That amounts to roughly 70 percent of the current budget for Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency. It also eclipses by millions of dollars all funding provided to Oregon’s signature research centers (OTRADI, ONAMI and BEST). Consequently, funding for Business Oregon, along with promotion of Oregon Film & Television production, industry and business development efforts, and innovation would all most likely face deep cuts if the ballot measure passes.
“EDCO relies heavily on Business Oregon to help our region achieve its job creation and economic diversification goals,” stated Wes Price, EDCO’s board president and partner in Central Oregon’s largest accounting firm. “If Measure 99 passes, economic development across the state will suffer,” he added.
Ironically, when the Oregon Lottery was approved by voters in 1984, 100 percent of the proceeds were to be dedicated to economic development. However, in recent years, more than two-thirds of the lottery net is sent through the legislative budget process to fund K-12 schools. In 1998, voters approved a 15 percent carve-out from the lottery for state parks and watersheds, which currently provides over $180 million per biennium for those purposes. Today, the amount dedicated to economic development, namely business development and job growth, is less than 7 percent of net lottery proceeds.
“Outdoor School for All is a laudable organization and cause, which we support,” said Roger Lee, executive director of EDCO, which assists the development and growth of the outdoor gear and apparel manufacturing industry. “However, choosing to target the lottery for permanent funding is just bad policy and for that reason, EDCO strongly opposes Measure 99.”
Other Oregon leaders have expressed concern both about these measures and the trend toward carving out specific pieces of the state budget. State Senator Betsy Johnson (D, Scappoose) characterized the measure as a “pickpocket” tactic and the former head of Portland Development Commission, Patrick Quinton, called it a “zero sum competition for the same dollars.”
Additionally, the Oregon Outdoor Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting and cultivating Oregon’s outdoor industry, originally supported the measure, but has since retracted their support once the impact to economic development became clear.