Two November ballot measures in Oregon would increase penalties for identity theft, burglary, drug dealing, and other nonviolent crimes, The Oregonian reports. Measures 57 and 61 would cost the state plenty: from $411 million to $797 million in operations over the next five years and $314 million to $1.3 billion in prison construction debt. The measures go before voters as the FBI reported this week that property crime reports in Oregon fell 20 percent over the past two years — the second-largest drop in the nation.
Oregon’s prison population has increased more than 80 percent since voters in 1994 approved a measure that set mandatory prison sentences for violent crimes. Oregon’s incarceration rate ranks near the middle among states. The prison spending would come in the midst of recent grim economic news, from growing unemployment to a plummeting stock market. Because the state relies on personal income taxes to pay for schools and services, the ailing economy will reduce the tax dollars the state has to spend. Senate President Peter Courtney has no idea how to pay for either measure. “One’s expensive, and one is very, very, very expensive,” he says. “I’ve got to worry about education. I’ve got to worry about human resources. I’ve got to worry about the rest of public safety. This isn’t going to make things any easier.”