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Stephen Marc Beaudoin, board chair of Multnomah Education Service District, says his Voter's Pamphlet opposition statement is not how he feels today.

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Stephen Marc Beaudoin, chair of Multnomah Education Service District, is now reluctantly supporting Measure 97. A local school board chair has been wrestling over the question posed by Oregon Ballot Measure 97 for weeks and has now come to a different conclusion than the one in your Voter’s Pamphlet.

Stephen Marc Beaudoin, chair of the Multnomah Education Service District and executive director of a nonprofit serving people with disabilities, says he now regrets public statements in opposition to Measure 97. The measure would create a tax on corporate revenue and generate an estimated $3 billion per year for the state’s general fund.

“Measure 97 fails every test of reasonableness, and as a school board chair, it fails the most important test of all: It makes false promises with no plan that our students and schools will get anything,” Beaudoin wrote in his opposition argument.

Now, Beaudoin says, “I don’t know that I would say or write today what I said or wrote a month ago or two months ago.”

Numerous education organizations, school boards and public employees unions have endorsed the measure, including the American Federation of Teachers, Oregon Education Association and Oregon PTA.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: SHASTA KEARNS MOORE - A photo of Stephen Marc Beaudoin's opposition statement in the Oregon Voter's Pamphlet. Beaudoin, who has aligned with those forces in the past, says he still thinks Measure 97 is a flawed way to generate more revenue, but in conversations with legislators such as Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland) and Rep. Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) he now believes it is the only way to get more of the money that the government needs to perform well.

“I think it’s very hard in part because I believe both campaigns ... are doing a terrible job of discussing the issue,” Beaudoin says. He wants the discussion to go beyond “corporations bad” versus “no tax on Oregon sales,” because “when we reduce it to these stupid, dumbed-down arguments, it really avoids the hard discussion of the complex needs and discussions of the constituency.”

Beaudoin says, for him, a more persuasive argument was hearing the history of numerous failed attempts at revenue reform since the 1990 passage of Measure 5, which limited the amount schools can receive from property taxes.

“We tried for 20 to 30 years to find some more sufficient revenue for public education and services and no one has gotten it right,” Beaudoin says.

He worries that he will be labeled a “flip-flopper” on the issue, but stresses that his internal conflict is genuine. He adds that he's gotten a lot of "heat" in the form of emails and social media posts for both his "yes" position and his "no" position but insists that no one has done anything more than talk.

"There has not been any significant influencer that attempted to coerce or strongarm me in my position," he says.

Beaudoin does say that in hindsight he wouldn’t issue a printed opinion before having similar conversations with stakeholders and policymakers and chalked it up to inexperience. Beaudoin is in his first term of elected office.

“This is (a) hard (decision), and anyone who says this is easy, I invite them to look a little deeper,” Beaudoin says.

Asked if he worries that the additional revenue will just be gobbled up by unfunded requirements of the Public Employees Retirement System, Beaudoin said: “I think there’s a lot of reason to be concerned about (the measure). I think that’s one of them.”

Beaudoin says he doesn’t think the ballot box should be where revenue reform starts but he doesn’t see any better option considering so many previous failed attempts to gain revenue for the state.

“I do have serious reservations about it for all the reasons I mention," he says, "but when I’m in front of my ballot, I’m going to be voting yes.”

This story has been updated from its original version with a few more comments from Beaudoin.

Shasta Kearns Moore
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