By CHARLES E. BEGGS
The Associated Press
SALEM Oregon got permission from voters in Tuesday's special election to sell bonds to refinance part of the public pension debt, a move the state treasurer says will save the state about $1 billion.
With 79 percent of the vote counted, Measure 29 had 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent opposed. The proposal had a wide lead in the most populous urban counties and was trailing narrowly in many rural counties.
The measure, put on the special election ballot by the Legislature, authorizes the state to sell $2 billion in bonds.
State Treasurer Randall Edwards said because of low bond interest rates, the refinancing would save the state about $1 billion in interest as it pays its share of the Public Employee Retirement System's debt.
"I'm pleased that with this victory tonight we will be able to take this smart, fiscally responsible step," Edwards said.
Thanks to the voters, Edwards said, "I will be able to save nearly $1 billion. That's money that can go to schools, our seniors and other critical services."
The Oregon Libertarian Party, Measure 29's main opponents, argued the bonded debt would have to be paid off with more taxes because legislators would squander money saved from refinancing and that the bonding authority seemed too open-ended.
Richard Burke, party executive director, said the results weren't surprising because the measure's supporters had spent more money than his own party's low-budget campaign.
But he said he thinks Libertarian efforts against Measure 29 may have narrowed the final results.
"If we did nothing more than make people think about these questions and consider whether to do this, we've done the state a service."