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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Lawmakers Debating Whether To Alter Or Delay Measure 98 Rollout

Chris Phan
Flickr -

Discussions are under way in Oregon's capitol over whether to change or delay implementation of a voter-approved ballot measure on high school education.

Measure 98directs state funding to high school programs for dropout prevention, college readiness and career training. It designates $800 per high school student to expand or develop new career programs.

But despite growing revenues, the state is facing a roughly $1.8 billion budget shortfall if it wants to continue funding services at their current levels.

Richard Donovan is a lobbyist for the Oregon School Boards Association, which supports the measure.

"The intent of the measure is to have new programs, expand existing programs that would do new things, make it greater,” Donovan said. “That's laudable and that's good. But I don't know if anybody's noticed, but we're in a tough budget year."

Nearly two-thirds of Oregon voters approved the measure in November. But lawmakers have the option to change if it they want. That's because the initiative affected state law but did not enshrine the changes in the Oregon Constitution.

House Speaker Tina Kotek said she thinks voters will understand if lawmakers decide to make changes to the initiative.

"I think any time you have a ballot measure of that substance, you have to have a [legislative] committee look at it," she said.

Kotek compared it to the 2014 vote to legalize recreational marijuana in Oregon. The following session, lawmakers made substantive changes to the measure, while maintaining its basic premise.

"I think most voters said 'I support legalizing marijuana.' They weren't, probably, into all the details," Kotek said. She said the legislative panel adjusted the pot initiative "to make it more practical.”

“And I think that's what you're going to see with Measure 98 as well,” Kotek said.