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Government and Politics
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.

Health Care Tax Qualifies For Oregon Ballot

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Oregonians will be voting on a tax on hospital and health insurance companies next January. The Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced Monday that opponents of the tax had successfully gathered enough valid signatures to force a vote.

It means that all registered voters in Oregon will receive a ballot in early January for a rare mid-winter special election. ? ?

Lawmakers who created the tax and other supporters have said it’s needed to fund health care for low-income Oregonians.

“If this measure fails, cuts to health care and critical services will be devastating,” said Democratic Party of Oregon chair Jeanne Atkins in a statement supporting the taxes. ? ?

But the three Republican state lawmakers who are spearheading the referendum effort said the taxes aren’t needed. They said Oregon instead needs systemic changes to the way it provides health care to low-income residents.

“I think the successful results of this petition effort shows just what Oregonians really think about what kind of job politicians are doing, and they aren’t very happy with the bills coming out of Salem,” said Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, who served as one of the chief petitioners. ? ?

The January 23 election date for what will be known as Measure 101 was chosen by Democrats in the Oregon Legislature. They argued that if the tax is overturned, lawmakers will have to act immediately to ensure that people who receive health care that’s paid for by the tax aren’t left in the cold.

Lawmakers will be meeting in February for their regularly-scheduled legislative session.