An initiative on Oregon’s November ballot to lock up first-time drug and property crime offenders would cost taxpayers $1.3 billion to $2.2 billion over the next decade, say projections by state officials reported by The Oregonian. A competing anti-crime measure sponsored by legislators would cost about $1.1 billion over the same period. Neither crime measure includes a tax increase to pay for housing additional inmates. It would be up to the legislature to raise taxes or cut other programs to foot the bill.
Kevin Mannix, a Republican who waged two unsuccessful campaigns for governor, is pushing Measure 61, the harsher of the two propositions. He called the state’s numbers “a fantasy” that overestimates how many people will end up behind bars. “The ordinary voter is going to say, ‘OK, do I want someone breaking into my car or stealing my car or stealing my identity? No, I don’t, and I want government to put these predators behind bars and pull them off the streets,’ ” he said. Measure 57, which legislators put on the ballot as an alternative to Mannix’s proposal, is cheaper at $1.1 billion but still requires the state to spend more than $143 million a year when fully operational. Under the lawmakers’ proposal, repeat offenders would bear the sentencing brunt and more money would go toward drug treatment. The measure would require $314 million for new prison space for an estimated 1,600 offenders.