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Deadline is Tuesday on PERS measure

Time remains to vote on Measure 29, the statewide ballot question regarding refinancing the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS).

Turnout is low in Hood River County, with 2,338 out of 10,500 ballots, or 22 percent, returned as of Friday morning. According to the Secretary of State’s office, turnout in most counties ranged from 20 to 28 percent. Turnout in Wasco is 25 percent so far; in Jefferson, 25 percent, and in Multnomah, 19 percent.

Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to return the ballots. They must be in the hands of the elections department at the courthouse — postmarks don’t count.

“Unless there’s a last-minute surge, turnout isn’t going to be real big,” said Lee Shissler, county elections coordinator. He said ballot volume was high right after they were mailed Aug. 29, and through Sept. 3, but the returns have since tapered off.

Measure 29 would amend the Oregon Constitution to authorize the State of Oregon to incur debt to finance the pension liabilities of the state at a lower cost to the state and to pay costs of issuing and incurring indebtedness. The measure authorizes the Legislative Assembly to enact implementing legislation.

The measure specifies that indebtedness authorized by the measure is a general obligation of the state, backed by the full faith and credit and taxing power of the state, except ad valorem taxing power.

The measure limits the amount of indebtedness outstanding at any time to one percent of the real market value of property in the state.

Supporters say a “yes” vote will save Oregon approximately $44 million in costs, and refinancing the PERS obligation can save the State more than $1 billion overall.

Turnout was biggest on Sept. 3, according to Shissler, with 625 returned. Numbers have gradually declined to 147 on Thursday.

“I think this election is not on the regular schedule of elections people are accustomed to, and they may be surprised to have received a ballot in the mail,” Shissler said. “Also, it’s a complex issue concerning financing a debt.”

The next county ballot will be Nov. 4, with votes on a city initiative concerning waterfront zoning, to be voted on by City of Hood River voters only, and an initiative regarding residential development of forest land, with the entire county voting.

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