Bringing it all back home
With Jeff taking a break from The Oregon Blog, and Bix taking an involuntary break from Portland Communique, lately it falls to just us few survivors to keep up the running commentary on matters relating to Portland and Oregon.
I've fallen down miserably in discharging this awesome responsibility. I've gotten fixated on the Demo primaries to the point of shirking my local duties. My resolution for the coming week is to get back to the garden, as it were.
The big news around here is Measure 30, the statewide ballot measure on the state income tax surcharge. The ballots are being turned in now, and the result will be announced Tuesday night. I'm being pounded for voting no on this thing, even though I believe I have stated my case eloquently. Generally, I'm not an anti-tax person, and calling me Lars Larson or Kevin Mannix doesn't make it so. I voted for Measure 28 last year, and for the county income tax in 2003. But there's got to be some limit, and I've reached mine. And I'm not buying any of the malarkey that the politicians and the papers are selling that if the state measure passes, the county will refund the tax.
For three weeks now, my church has literally prayed that Measure 30 will pass. The area's religious leaders (many of whom don't pay taxes) are fervent in their advocacy for the tax increase. Well, damn me to hell, but do I get credit for having voted yes on two out of three?
Rumor has it that all the polls show Measure 30 failing badly, which means there will be painful budget cuts throughout the state. Multnomah County won't be as badly affected because it now has its own income tax. Maybe other counties should follow suit. What? The voters of the other counties won't pass local taxes? Cry me a river.
In a telling show of how completely disconnected from reality our political leaders have become, the very week that a wicked budget ax is about to fall on schools downstate, the state superintendent of public education announces that we ought to expand public school kindergarten from a half day to a full day. I guess she's planning to pay for that by skipping around Salem picking the money that grows on the trees.
Sure, it would be a wonderful idea. But we can't have it and a $1 million a year trolley in Portland, and an aerial tram for OHSU, and PGE Park, and a mostly empty Oregon Convention Center, and North Portland light rail, and all the other toys in the Vera Katz Theme Park. The customers are tapped out.
I know, I know, Measure 30 is a state tax, and the things I'm complaining about are city and county boondoggles. However, the enactment of the Multnomah County tax has completely changed the dynamic. It was expressly sold as an antidote for the state government's irresponsibility, with a promise of a refund if the state cleaned up its act. Thus, the two levels of taxation are now inextricably bound, probably forever. Fine with me -- it all comes out of one checkbook at our house.
One of the more interesting arguments in favor of Measure 30 is that the state tax increase would be less than the federal tax cuts we're all enjoying under George "He Hate Me" Bush. (That may be true for many, although I estimate that our household barely breaks even, even without the Measure 30 tax.) I for one think the federal tax cuts were and are obscene, and I'm hoping that we'll get some new national leadership soon who will let some of the more outlandish welfare-for-the-rich tax provisions die for good when they expire on schedule in the coming years. But that will never happen if the states are sucking up that money. Support for reforming the federal tax mess will be considerably less if the states have become dependent on eating the money that Bush has given away.
As I said, sorry, folks, but I'll be the bad blogger on this one.