It's ballot season! Leading off is Ballot Measure 86, which would amend the constitution to requirethe legislature to establish the "Oregon Student Opportunity Fund," to issue bonds to fund it, to invest the proceeds, and to devote the net earnings to provide financial assistance to Oregon students "pursuing post-secondary educatoin, including technical, professional and career training."
This measure attracted 14 "yes" arguments in the Voter's Pamphlet, and only one "no" argument, which came from the irrepressible Steve Buckstein of the Cascade Policy Institute. "God," as Napoleon famously said, "is on the side of the big battalions," but sometimes public policy isn't. The state needs to do more to support public education, but Measure 86 is a good idea poorly implemented. Isaac will be voting against it. Here's why.
First, it's missing an important definition. The measure provides financial assistance to "Oregon students," but does not define whether an "Oregon student" includes only an Oregon resident studying in Oregon, or if it also includes an Oregon resident studying out of state, or an out-of-state resident studying in Oregon. If the state is going to borrow money to invest in post-secondary education it should make it clear that the money will be spent only in Oregon.
Second, I'm innately suspicious that the trustees of the large fund will invest portions of the funds to advance noble social policy goals (e.g., supporting innovation in the manufacture and delivery of solar panels), or to high-fee hedge funds, rather than to provide a reasonable return combined with safety of principal. Our track record of sticking to our knitting isn't very good.
Third is the loophole in Section 6, which provides that if the Governor declares an emergency and a supermajority of the legislature concurs, the money in the fund may be spent for "any lawful purpose," as long as the legislature approves a plan to replenish the fund eventually. Would the legislature call the near-bankruptcy of several Oregon counties an emergency to justify tapping the fund? Maybe . . . and there goes the money for the fund's stated purpose.
The drafters of this measure meant well, but they executed poorly. Thumbs down from Isaac.