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Sunday, January 18, 2004

Measure 30

The ballots have arrived at our house for Measure 30, the Oregon statewide income tax increase, with a voting deadline of Feb. 3. This is the income tax surcharge that the Legislature put in place last summer, only to have it dragged before the voters by initiative petition.

Great timing. We're broke right now.

I sized this one up pretty well back in August, and not much has changed since then. The key voters are in Multnomah County, where a big win is necessary for the tax boost to pass. And the logic of your average Multnomah County voter right now is likely to be this:

O.k., I've already had my state and local income taxes increased from 9 percent of income to 10.25 percent of income because of the new county income tax. That's a whopping 13.89 percent increase for people in the 9 percent state bracket (1.25 is 13.89 percent of 9), and even higher for folks in lower state brackets. Isn't a 13.89 percent revenue increase enough to keep the schools open? Why would I vote for a state measure that bumps the increase up to 19.45 percent? I'm all for schools, but a 13.89 percent single-year increase is too much, much less 19.45 percent.

Since I first wrote that, the county has made a nonbinding commitment to reduce the county tax by "as much as" 22 percent if the state measure passes. But that's only if the county gets good collections from its new tax -- a prospect that's highly uinlikely, since there's no mandatory county tax withholding from wages, and many average workers won't be able or willing to pay it. Also, the forecast comes from County Commission Chair Diane Linn, who's become quite the master at retracting public statements. First she promised the new library director an astronomical salary, then had to take part of it back. Last week she announced that county workers would be paid for the snow days, only to reverse course a day later.

If Linn's most optimistic nonpromise comes true, the county would retroactively reduce the new county tax from 1.25 to 0.98 percent, and issue a refund. Meanwhile, the state income tax would increase by 0.50 percent of income, leaving Multnomah voters with an aggregate tax increase of 1.48 percent of income. So up here we're basically voting on a tax increase of 0.23 percent of our income -- another $115 if your income is $50,000 -- with all of the new money being sent outside the county.

I can't see it passing.

The other news is that the proponents of the measure tell us there will be no immediate special session of the Legislature if it fails. There will just be pre-ordained, painful budget cuts (except in Multnomah County). A special session on tax reform is still on the schedule for the summer, but that group's apparently going to be looking into the future, rather than trying to fix the present.

Comments (5)

We received our ballots Saturday; I brought mine to work today, filled it out, and will hold onto it until tomorrow (no mail today).

What, if anything, can make a legislative tax change exempt from initiative action? (For example, a unanimous vote when passed in the legislature?) I'm sick of special sessions and special elections, I just want government to work.

Our household could probably manage to pay this tax without too much suffering, but the cumulative effect of the last couple of years is making me reconsider whether we're actually making enough money to own a home. I'd hate to have to sell my house; I grew up on welfare and struggled to get this far into the middle class, and it would be a horrifying failure to lose what I managed to achieve.

The fact that revenues are inadequate indicates that the taxpayer's incomes are also less than desired. So why should the government continue to spend at a pace greater than the income of its citizenry?

I have to agree. Oregon spends more then it collects in tax dollars. It doesn't help to hear that public workers are making over $100 thousand a year to file paperwork or sit in an office. I'm all for schools and special programs but when will the taxes stop?? If we pass this Legislation, what stops them from creating another law that asks for more taxes? Voting No to Measure 30 tells our state that we're being over taxed and are tired of paying for high salaries. Let's budget this state better!!

I was under the impression that the state legislature spent an extra 3 weeks in session last year at the request of Oregonians that wanted something tangible to move forward with. They came up with Measure 30. I am also under the impression that they basically took last year's Multnomah special income tax increase and proposed it for all of Oregon. Included within Measure 30 is the clause that gives Multnomah county tax payers a return from the county, so as to make sure there is no double taxation.

There is no guarantee, in Measure 30 or anywhere else, of the amount of any rebate of the Multnomah County income tax. County officials have stated publicly that, at most, 22 percent of the county tax will be refunded if Measure 30 passes.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Measure 30:

» Oregon's tax code and finances are inexplicable from JohnHays.net
As Jack Bog's Blog: Measure 30 explains so well, the tax code is nuts no matter where you live, but if you live in Multnomah County, then it becomes really nuts. Corporations pay very little, percentage wise, in income tax... [Read More]

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