This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 3, 2003 11:50 PM. The previous post in this blog was Radio silence. The next post in this blog is One hand washes the other. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, January 3, 2003

I can go for that

The Voter's Pamphlet arrived in the mail today for the upcoming statewide referendum on a temporary increase in the Oregon state individual and corporate income taxes. It was a pleasant surprise, in that the proposed increase in the top rate of individual income tax is only 0.5 percent, from 9.0 percent to 9.5 percent. (The top rate kicks in at a ridiculously low level of taxable income, but that's a post for another day)

For some reason, I was under the mistaken impression that the increase was going to be to 10 percent, which seemed a little steep. (Out-of-state readers who are gasping at these rates, remember that Oregon, blissfully, doesn't have a sales tax.)

Now, I'm as cranky as the next old coot about the huge wastes of tax dollars that are going on at all levels of government, particularly at the local level here in Portland. But it really isn't worth quibbling over a half percent to prevent the supposed catastrophes that our lawmakers have manufactured if this increase doesn't pass. After taking into account the fact that Oregon state income taxes are deductible on one's federal tax return (if one itemizes deductions, which most middle and high-end taxpayers do), it works out to a few hundred dollars a year or less. With so many people around here out of work, I can pay that little extra.

To be sure, there's enough hypocrisy here to give one pause. By its terms, the measure is only temporary -- covering last year, this year, and next year. You can bet it will be right back on the drawing board the following year. Heaven forbid we should plan for the long haul. And one wonders why we go through the agony and expense of a public vote if it's such a small increase. I've lost track of whether all the ill-advised tax limitation initiatives that we've passed in this state over the last decade or two actually require a vote for something this small. But there really shouldn't have to be one. If the folks we elect to send to Salem to represent us can't tinker with our taxes by a couple of hundred bucks a year, why do we send them there at all?

And shouldn't this all have been taken care of before now? The retroactive element of the tax increase is not only theoretically impure, but also a big administrative mess. The election won't be over until January 28. Lots of Oregonians like to file their tax returns earlier than that. The Department of Revenue has had to print the forms for 2002 already, not knowing what the proper rates are. So there are two alternate sets of tables in the instructions, which will doubtlessly confuse many taxpayers.

Finally, I sense that the Legislature set this measure up to fail. You couldn't find a bleaker time of year for the average consumer than January 28. The financial hangover from Christmas has just set in big time, with all those charge card bills sitting on the desk making obscene gestures. As most charitable fundraisers know, it's a dumb time to be hitting people up for money.

But anyway, count me in on Measure 28. And while we're at it, let's hope the Oregon Legislature somehow miraculously grows up this time around!

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