PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Former state legislator Kevin Mannix defended his ballot proposal to hand down harsher mandatory sentences for sex offenders and drunken drivers at a Salem debate on Friday.
Former state legislator Lane Shetterly, representing the opposition, responded that the measure is ``poorly crafted'' and said the state can't afford to spend more on corrections while it faces a $3 billion budget hole in the next biennium.
``It spends money we don't have,'' Shetterly said.
The Statesman Journal reports that Mannix downplayed the cost element, and argued that state estimates for previous mandatory minimum sentencing measures were overstated.
Measure 73 would require anyone convicted of a ``major felony sex crime'' who had previously been convicted of a sex crime to be sentenced to 25 years in prison. That would be a change from the current minimum sentence of 5 years, 10 months.
The initiative would also make a person's third drunken driving conviction a felony and require a 90-day jail sentence. Under current Oregon law, the third drunken driving conviction is a misdemeanor, and the fourth is a felony.
The measure would cost between $43.4 million and $63.6 million in its first four years.
Mannix referred to the sex offender affected by the harsher sentences as the ``worst of the worst'' and said drunken drivers who ``pose a menace to our society'' currently get ``a free ride in this state.''
Mannix has had success sponsoring anti-crime measures. They include Measure 11, a 1994 ballot initiative that established mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes and sex crimes.
At the debate, Mannix pointed to Measure 11 as a major success for his anti-crime initiatives, as Oregon's violent crime dropped dramatically after voters approved the measure in 1994.
Shetterly acknowledged that Measure 11 increased public safety and produced ``a positive net return, but said the state needs to change its stance on crime and punishment to deal with the budget problem, investing more in home drug-treatment and crime-prevention programs.
``Business as usual in Oregon is a thing of the past,'' Shetterly said. ``We need to be more creative.''
The state faces a shortfall of close to $1 billion this year, and a projected shortfall of $3.2 billion for the next two years, so Measure 73 has proven divisive within Mannix's own party.
Chris Dudley, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, said in his budget plan that he opposes the Mannix measure because it would cost too much, but the state Republican Party has said they are ``generally favorable'' to the measure.