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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 11, 2004 4:12 PM. The previous post in this blog was Top 10 Other Standing Ovation Ideas for the Trail Blazers. The next post in this blog is And I say, it's all right. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Lonnie got to sign off on this one

We got a nice little postcard today from the Multnomah County commissioners. It was inviting us to a series of open public forums on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage -- JUST KIDDING! It was reminding us to pay the new Multnomah County income tax.

The county is so funny. Rather than say, "Don't forget, it's a legal obligation to pay, and failure to pay could result in criminal or civil penalties," it instead explains all the good things that the tax revenues do. It's as if they're asking people to vote on it again.

Perhaps the most revealing corner of the card is a pie chart on how much in tax the county has collected and distributed through last Friday. It's $22 million, out of the $127 million that's supposed to come in by April 15. In other words, so far only 17 percent of the projected revenue is in.

Of course, there will be a big inflow right around April 15. But will the county make it anywhere near $127 million? Doubtful. I think it will be more like $90-100 million.

One big reason for the shortfall: no mandatory withholding of the tax from wages. Income taxes don't work well without it.

Comments (11)

Does anyone know what the plans are for enforcement? Will the Oregon Dept. Of Taxation & Assessments be helping?

I have heard that the county is assessing this tax retroactively on people who moved out of the county before it actually passed (i.e., someone who moved out of Multnomah in April is still hit with the tax even though it didn't pass until May).

I don't know if it is unconstitutional, but the idea of retroactively taxing former residents just seems wrong.

It's like that line from Godfather III, "I try to get out but they keep pulling me back!"

My understanding is that the Oregon Department of Revenue wants no part of this. I don't know about other state agencies, but I doubt they'd do it except for a large fee.

The county has budgeted $7 million a year for collections and audits. I assume they'll be hiring a bunch of new county bureaucrats to do the work.

Problem: Only $1.4 million of that $7 million has come in so far.

This is a very amateurish tax, and so I expect the Sisters of Hawthorne to go it alone.

Do they *seriously* expect folks who have moved away to pay this? Wtf?! (pardon my language) Why is it the really stupid ideas and I actions I keep seeing on CNN (or read in the paper) are constantly topped by PDX gov't? Everytime!

And yes, bringing in $1.4M after spending $7M seems like a classic Northwest move.

Open Question to Anyone™ - at what point would PDX/Multnomah Country come out financially ahead if they simply *stopped* running the trains (MAX and the streetcar), trying to attract Pro baseball teams and trying to collect goofy taxes like this? Seriously. All the effort these monkeys* are expending on bad ideas would be better spent putting these gov't folks out of a job.

* - Just to clarify to the whiners, in this case monkey is meant as written - they are as stupid as monkeys. And like monkeys, they also have opposable thumbs, so they can grasp simple tools. And like monkeys, they have yet to created with a decent tax plan for PDX. Sigh.

I'm with you 100% on the baseball situation (although if it were hockey we were talking about I'd be all for the tax expenditure, so I'm not exactly an unbiased party). However, how is the MAX a bad idea? It's exceeding expectations for ridership, and therefore is decreasing rushhour traffic proportionally. If you LIKE sitting in traffic for 30-45 minutes to travel I'm with you 100% on the baseball situation (although if it were hockey we were talking about I'd be all for the tax expenditure, so I'm not exactly an unbiased party). However, how is the MAX a bad idea? It's exceeding expectations for ridership, and therefore is decreasing rushhour traffic proportionally. If you LIKE sitting in traffic for 30-45 minutes to travel

then I guess I can see your argument... otherwise, you really don't have much of an argument there.

Karstan:
Last I heard (and I left PDX a while ago) each rider on MAX cost the gov't a finite amount over their fare - MAX lost money with every rider. And at that time, the system was "exceeding expectations for ridership" and "decreasing rushhour traffic proportionally".

The only amount that is hard to manipulate is the bottom line. And the bottom line showed MAX was losing money.

Fact of the day: Who were the many, many *new* people riding MAX when it appeared? Most of them were the folks riding the 'express' buses on the highways. That's right - MAX was taking Tri-Met riders off the bus - and carrying them on a a train. At a *much* increased cost.

I'm sure Jack has access to more recent info. And if you live in PDX, please look it up. If you will post proof that MAX is now solidly in the black I will change my tune. But Tri-Met is repeating the press-releases of 1986-87: nice words, but no concrete figures.

The fact of history remains: MAX lost money. 'Exceeding ridership' is a sham. MAX was (and may still be) losing money. Even with federal funds (which are my taxes also) MAX was losing money. Think about that: your federal taxes can't make MAX break-even.

I wish MAX were at least breaking even - I *really* do. It's a great idea. I rode it for 6 years, and even with it's warts (most of which it still has) it matched the culture of PDX.

But I didn't hear the press conference where Vera announced, "MAX is actually, honestly, profitable."

Who said that public transit had to net a profit? Isn't the decreased traffic flow and air pollution enough of a benefit? How about the economic impact of attracting business to the PDX area? (admittedly not so great lately, but there's hope for the future). Cost-benefit analysis should include much more than dollar amounts.

I recall seeing an article in the Oregonian a few weeks ago that addressed the very questions you raise about ridership, but their website only retains articles for 14 days. According to tri-met's website, MAX riders do differ geographically and demographically from the bus riders, so the MAX seems to serve a different portion of the population. If I remember correctly from the article, MAX ridership has increased at a greater rate than the overall population. I'm sorry I don't have more facts at my disposal. But my point remains the same, why does MAX have to make money if the other benefits are significant?

I'm betting that each new MAX project serves as a method for refinancing (covering up) past lightrail failures. Somehow the Smart Growth crowd keeps finding ways to qualify for a new taxpayer-backed credit card when they need to avoid reality.

Eventually, we will all be saddled with the debt needed to operate these silly trains - as Bechtel laughs all the way to the bank.

MAX needs to pay for itself, because other 'significant benefits' aren't coming back to the taxpayers. The round-a-bout logic that a city-train attracts business is a bit thin - especially after I pay my taxes.

Dollar for dollar, the train costs too much, to support too few.

Well, I guess I'll just hope that more people think as I do; that the cost is well worth it. :)


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In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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