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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 27, 2004 6:15 PM. The previous post in this blog was O yeah. The next post in this blog is Nanook-a, no no. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

'Tis the season

We got our first holiday greeting card today, from the Multnomah County Commissioners. Diane, Lonnie and the Girls are reminding us that we'll be paying our county income tax again soon. Get that check in by the end of December, and you can deduct it on this year's federal tax return, instead of next year's.

Woo hoo!

Didn't get yours? No need to miss out on the festivities. Get one to call your very own here. (Sorry, no picture of Diane on the form this time.)

And remember -- just one more year after this. Then something will happen to stimulate our economy so wildly that this tax will go away. It's only temporary.

Uh huh.

Comments (19)

I still want to know whether, if teachers, via their union, had agreed to lower (via large-group negotiating) or to contribute to their extraordinarily high medical-insurance coverages, this tax would be necessary.

Glad I am not paying it out of a no-benefit, low income again this year. Almost reason enough to move, or maybe for me that was just Diane Linn. Unlike those who said they'd move if Bush was elected, I didn't threaten it, I just did it. I do believe I wasn't the only. Welcome to the newcomers who want to pick up this and other badly designed subsidies.

Unlike those who said they'd move if Bush was elected

Uhm, before you let that self-congratulatory smirk get too big, it should be noted that moving out of the county is orders of magnitude easier than moving out of the country... and it hasn't even been a month since the election...

Ah, kinda missing the bigger point for a little needle, aren't you, noip? But "self-congratulatory smirk" would be a total misread. Still-smoldering fury, maybe. As for others who left, I think pretty much it was a calculated business deal; the (often self-congratulatory) specialness of Portland isn't worth it to them.

Jack - Has the (less than) 2%-tax driven away (more than) 2% of the population?

Sally - Have you thought about sending a postcard to Portland City Hall telling the City Council that you left, and why? That actually sounds like a cool project for someone to head up [cough]like Jack[cough]

Y'know, the one thing that makes America great, at least as far as I can see around my own neck of the woods here, is the total, self-serving NIMBYism that runs more rampant than flu season. And unlike the flu, this epidemic seems to run throughout the entire year.

Before you complain on how good teachers have it and how this tax is unnecessary, how many of you are teachers? How many know first-hand what benefits these teachers receive (or donít receive)? All I see so far is a lot of little angry people who have happened to find (yet) another soapbox on which to stand. I mean, come on people Ė yes this is a new and uncomfortable tax. But unlike other taxes you pay, these funds STAY HERE! They donít get assimilated into some fund to change the color of an office in Washington, they go directly into our schools, our services, and our future. But I guess itís easier for some of you to whine and expect someone (everyone/anyone) else to pay for something. After all, you have much more important things to spend your money onÖ like that boat youíve been eyeing for a year and a half now.

Granted, there are some that honestly cannot afford this tax. Thatís a given. And some have been made exempt, either by making an insufficient Oregon Taxable Income (of which the 1.25% tax is taken from), by receiving a retirement fund as most of their income or some other means. Others, have a tax amount but cannot afford to pay it all at once, so the County has offered payment plans and offered to waive a 25% penalty for the first year. Hey, at least theyíre trying to work with you.

Others, however (and a large percentage ,if not majority), make combined incomes well into the $70-150K range, have 1.2 kids and a grandmother or twoÖ grandma is on some sort of medication and the kids are in school. Yet even these people complain about the tax. Why? It makes no sense to me. Would you rather your kids sit in a crowded school and continue to NOT learn? Gee, letís just push another generation of illiterate bastards out there to take over where we ****íd upÖ er, I mean left off.

And grandmaÖ these funds also go into healthcare services for seniors. But I guess some people would rather tell poor olí grandma to just go without hr heart medication or whatever. And if she dies, so be it. At least they didnít pay this absurd tax!

People, get your heads out, will ya? Take a moment to look at the good this tax does instead of how it costs you a little a month.

And yes, this post was a bit sarcasticÖ just a bit. ^_^

Itís just two more years (supposedly). They canít make it permanent without a vote and thatís where yíall come in. Hell, The Cowboy is going to be around for four more yearsÖ at least all that money youíre paying for the feds is going towards something better than stupid schools or kids or whatnotÖ

Itís going to help build more bombs so we can continue to obliterate another country in ďsearchĒ of one man. I can see how that can take priority. Go USA!

Peace.

Portland has the worst school system in the nation but are more than averagely funded. Oregon is one of the highest taxed states in the nation. Do the math, please, Oregon, take more of my check, you do such a good job with the money!

Huh? "Portland has the worst school system in the nation"? How can you call a system that attracts (still) one of the highest opt-in rates, and produces (still) one of the highest SAT scores, of any urban school district "worst"?

TTM - "They canít make it permanent without a vote and thatís where yíall come in."

You must be new to Oregon - votes are needed here. And votes of the people get reversed. Plus the 'sisters' like to pass laws without any vote. Two more years? It'll last closer to eternity.

As for teachers being overpaid, they aren't. But there are too many management types, and they need to go.

I've lived here for quite a few years now, but I see your point. I guess that's why there are blogs like Jack's here... to keep the voice raised.

"As for teachers being overpaid, they aren't. But there are too many management types, and they need to go."

Indeed.

TTM - I think the issue is not essential services, which I have no problem funding. It is that this is the bottom priority for local government.

Rather they would like to use spending on baseball stadiums, $200M reservoir covers, Police/Fire disability (about 10% of prop tax) when 15% of police/fire claim disability, $30M down the hole for water computer, $150/yr prop tax bills for $1M Pearl condos, driving to set up a PUC for electricity when thru mis-manangement we have the highest water rates in the country. Basically all the fun and sexy (social engineering) stuff instead of the necessary (schools/police.)

This is what government fails to realize. I mean when is the last time (excluding schools/police) any government has offered to cut spending?

I agree with Jack that this will be a new and permanent tax, I have already heard Sam Adams saying this and am sure if Mr Leonard doesn't get his cell-phone tax, this will be his next crusade. Which sounds funny since this is county money and not city money.

"Before you complain on how good teachers have it and how this tax is unnecessary, how many of you are teachers? How many know first-hand what benefits these teachers receive (or donít receive)?"

I know what I read in the paper. Even the schoolteachers' best friend, The Oregonian, came to castigate, albeit (too, imo) gently, the union for refusing as promised to negotiate the exorbitant monthly medical coverage premiums down. They are nearly $1,000/month per teacher now. Contrast that with any private or public coverage. And it is all publicly paid.

The maximum Oregon income tax rate kicks in at $6,250 net annually. Progressive? More than a third of Oregonians are considered low-income by national data, and the state median income is below the national average. The polarization, top to bottom, has increased more than in most states also in the last few years.

I paid Oregon taxes most of my life and never complained -- in fact, was proud & happy to do so. Multnomah County and Vera Katz's Portland have, with the widely almost randomly divergent property taxes these days, changed my sentiments altogether about that.

But from what I read, Portland's latest public-employee-pay minefield will be unsustainable police & fire disability & retirement funding.

Your rhetoric which completely ignores my (and many others') reality got this tax passed. I have never hated -- nor felt so unfairly put upon by -- a single tax so much.

ďYour rhetoric which completely ignores my (and many others') reality got this tax passed. I have never hated -- nor felt so unfairly put upon by -- a single tax so much.Ē

I understand your ire and frustration. I just wanted to point that outÖ however I feel your statement is bordering a naÔvetť that often results in the wrong people getting hurt. For sake of argument, letís call it //your// rhetoric.

You know what you read in the paper. Gee, thatís great. I urge you to talk to some teachers, then comment. Teachers that took voluntary cuts in pay and health coverage so they could teach //your// kids. So they could do //their// jobs.

So our kids get to learn in school Ė in classrooms that arenít overcrowded, and for FULL SCHOOL YEARS! And the teachers still take voluntary cuts to be able to do their jobs. When was the last time you volunteered to take a cut in pay or healthcare so you could do your job? Would you? I wonderÖ

Taxes suck. Government sucks. Itís a fact and one most people are not happy about but live with because there is simply no other choice. Government overspending has, unfortunately, become a fact of life. It seems the bureaucrats find more and more ways to spend money they obviously donít have Ė and never for things that would do good, like schools or whatnot, but war spending and absurd little things that end up giving the rich more to spend. It is, after all, the American way.

Is this an excuse? Sadly noÖ itís just a fact. The state should pick up the ball Ė I agree wholeheartedly. This tax was meant to be a bridge Ė nothing more. An opportunity VOTED IN (TWICE!!!) by the people to help the schools Ė our schools. Hopefully the state will have its act somewhat together (asking a lot, I know) and this tax will no longer be needed. Thatís what I hope for, to be honest Ė not that the tax goes away but that it is no longer needed.

If you donít like it, thatís fine. You donít have to. I supported the tax both times and I continue to support the tax. I appreciate and respect opinions from all sides, even if I donít fully understand them.

But to say itís my rhetoric, and similar arguments, that got this tax passed is bogus. Itís the belief that we, the citizens, can have enough heart and sense to offer to help the county when it needs us for once. Itís the silly hope that we can make a difference for our children; to give them a shot at something better.

I knowÖ itís an archaic American dream. But itís the one I choose to believe in.

TTM, that's just all flowers & songs. You either do not know or are deliberately avoiding the facts I have referred to. Oregon & Multnomah County in particular have a very regressive tax system. When people like me start saying "Go, Lars" there's something wrong.

Go, Lars.

(And I didn't say that taxes & government "suck." I said these do. When was the last time you lived on less than $10K/year? Do you even know who is paying this tax & who is exempt? At any rate, as I said, I left. I couldn't find or afford a place in Portland's "dream.")

TTM - If I read your comment correctly, you say that the teachers get an "A" for effort (which is proper) - but you equate "Tax Problems" with "Poor Teachers" (which is off the mark).

Teachers took pay cuts? That's a good start. Laying off management would be more effective, though. A lot of us took pay cuts when our employers lost customers (students) or lost revenue (decreased tax revenue). Coddling government workers is discrimination against those of us in the private sector.

The intemperate truth is that teachers don't deserve to live in a fantasy-land of eternal bliss because they teach kids most of the year. Remember, that's not a cruel statement, just the intemperate truth.

When the district loses money, it's up to the school leadership to make up the difference - preferably by demonstrating some 'leadership'. Cutting expensive management would be a good idea that works well outside the government-education community.

Crying to City Hall for more money because they "work hard" doesn't cut it outside of education circles. And it shouldn't work here.

Sally:

No, you never said taxes and government sucks. I said that. ;0)

Yes, Oregon and YES, Multnomah County have a history of voting down taxes of any kind. I never ignored that fact. That was one reason I was so surprised that the income tax passed. At least it showed me that finally some people were willing to belly up to the bar and offer something to help instead of sitting on their rumps and complaining about a system that doesnít work.

I was raised with the mentality of Ďif youíre not willing to be a part of the solution then shut the hell up.í Ė thanks, Dad. I donít have kids. I donít have elderly grandparents or parents that need Medicare. This tax does NOTHING for me. Does that mean I should punish all of those that the tax does do good for? Could I be that selfish?

Others maybeÖ not me.

Deliberately avoiding the facts? No. Simply trying to show that there are two sides to every issue. Just because I donít agree with you doesnít mean I am ignorant or deceitful.

As for living on a fixed income I am not going to get into that debate. Suffice it to say Iíve been there. $10K would have been glorious in the days I lived out of a tent in Alaska. I recently broke my butt to get food to the Food Bank for Thanksgiving this year (they were severely short on food for families for some reason) Ė mostly to give back to an institution that assisted me when I had no food. Iíve been in the depths of poverty and Iíve seen what good services can do.

But now that I am no longer in need of these services I should just walk away and complain? Shake my head and say ďGo Lars!Ē

Sorry. I canít do that.

But I digress. To get back to the point, although I can see and understand your point of view I simply cannot agree with you.

Scott:

Tax problems with poor teachers? Not exactly what I meant. How about tax problems equaling ineffective and overworked teachers? Or ineffective and crowded classrooms? No matter which way you look at it, the kids suffer. Public education is a joke and private is too expensive. Not to sound deliberately dramatic but it almost feels as though we are slipping back into a feudal way of thinking: only the rich and royalty may learn to read and write. All others, the peasants, the serfs and whatnot, are to remain illiterate. However, instead of decree it is due to the inability to afford decent education.

The first eight or nine years of education are the most crucial for children. It truly shapes the rest of their lives. If they get poor education it will severely handicap them in their adult life. As it is now, you canít even get a job flipping burgers without a bachelor degree in SOMEthing. But weíre considering forcing these kids to go through their early years with a poor grasp of what is needed to succeed in life.

ďThe intemperate truth is that teachers don't deserve to live in a fantasy-land of eternal bliss because they teach kids most of the year. Remember, that's not a cruel statement, just the intemperate truth.Ē

Which fantasy-land is this, exactly? One where they can expect to get paid for their jobs? One where if they need medical attention they are covered? Now, granted, I am a firm believer of National Health Coverage Ė one to two coverages available to everyone in the USA. I think the privatization of heath providers throughout the nation is more to blame for the rising cost of health coverage than an entire district of teachers, government employees, or whatnot. Itís something that needs to be addressed. However, itís not on the radar as of yet so we wait.
As for cutting expensive management, that is something I can fully agree on. There are far too many chiefs, so to speak, and most make an absurd amount of money. Itís something that bugs me too but still I raise the question, is this any reason to punish the kids? I canít see a single connection that would make me think so. Can you?

Back to the original question at hand Ė I am not positive this tax is intended to be permanent. How could it be? It is still my impression that in order for this tax to even continue temporarily it must be up to voters. To simply shake your head and say ďWell, thatís OregonĒ.

If it hits the ballot, vote on it Ė for or against. Granted, there may be other taxes that pop up from time ot time but those have to be voted on as well, I believe.

If it fails, then great! No more tax!

If it passes, then you really donít have anything to complain about, right? :0)

TTM - How about this for a revolutionary offer to government, for each dollar (or two) of savings, they can raise taxes by one dollar?

I am sorry, but when I see college students seeing price increases 2x inflation in the past 10 years, I can't believe that those in education are budgeting properly. As Sally says, I really think $900/month for med insur and state-paid PERS contribution is a heck of a lot better deal than the average tax payer gets.

The school system is lousy. The education colleges are lousy. The bureaucracies are lousy. Teachers are not underpaid and overworked. They get good pay and phenomenal (even absurd) benefits, easy tenure and an unmatched vacation package.

The old days when teachers would sport bumper stickers that said, "Three best things about teaching: June, July & August" were at least more honest than the litany of martyrdom that has become deafening mantra now.

Government employees should not be living substantially higher on the hog than those who pay their salaries. I venture to guess that those like TTM find their salaries low and extra taxes easy, and in-the-name-of-the-children guilt-trip or simply force the others of us along.

I'll continue to support charter schools and the good (finally) work the Gates Foundation is doing toward education in the USA. I'll save my sympathy vote for Oregon Institutions of Higher Education, where unlike k-12 one did used to be able to ferret out a good education, though I no longer know if that is possible (and I do not know how it is affordable -- and those instructors are underpaid).

Sally, you obviously hold some resentment towards the schools and the teachers who work there.

Iíll admit, I was hit with sticker shock when I got my initial tax bill (and, not that itís of any importance, but my wife and I both have about a $50k salary, so my tax was close to $1,500) and many of the same thoughts you and others have expressed here flew through my mind. But I look at the current state of public education in this state and, more specifically, in this county and it was painfully obvious: they needed me right now.

Granted, the government should handle its funds better. Iíd much rather support a multi-billion education bill over a military bill any day but thatís simply not the case. I said it once and Iíll say it againÖ government sucks. Well, government spending sucks, how about that?

However, that is no reason for me to turn a blind eye to the schools. Are the teachers overpaid? Are their benefits out of balance with the private sector? I think itís a matter of perspective, really. Do I feel threatened or enraged because a government worker receives benefits that I do not? Sometimes. But I have to tell myself, I am not a government worker. If I wanted, I could be. Itís that whole argument of ďdonít just complain about it Ė do something about itĒ again.

But again, why should I punish the kids? You say that I use an ďin-the-name-of-the-children guilt-tripÖĒ but that is not my intention. Guilt trip? Is it a guilt trip that I actually care about the welfare of someone elseís kids? Their future? OUR future? Itís thinking like yours that got The Cowboy re-elected and that same thinking is what is sending our Nation into the toilet. Itís got to be all about you Ė and on one else. Each man is an island, eh? ďGo Lars!Ē (talk about a deafening mantraÖ)

Sorry. It doesnít work that way. Sometimes you have to pull your head out and actually help. Or run away. There are no martyrs here. No one is left to hang whilst you sit back and sip your morning cappuccino and review your stock options. This effects all of us in one way or another.

I donít want to turn this from a debate into a flat-out argument so I will reiterate what I have said before. You represent a point of view and I represent the opposite. I respect your opinion but vehemently disagree with you stance.

However, with that said, I do find we share a common ground when it comes to the level of quality the current K-12 public education system. It is a terribly ineffective institution and needs serious consideration and reform. However, it ainít gonna be free. And itís going to take something that is going to set a LOT of parents into a defensive stance Ė parental cooperation. Sure, you could all pull your kids out of public school and send them to private charters, but what then? What happens when 90% of the kids are in private schools?

The same problem that is happening now. Too many kids, not enough teachers and funding will be short. A different boat in the same sea. Well, we could always just shuffle the kids back and forth from private to public to private again and againÖ or we could buck up and find a way to help fix the system in stead of shaking our fists and crying foul.

Donít take your hatred and anger towards the system out on the kids. Thatís all Iím asking. If you want, take your kids out of public school, move out of the county and enlist them in a private school. The level of education may be higher and think of all the money you save by not paying the temporary county taxÖ of course, thereís the little thing of paying for the schooling now, but cíest la vie, eh?

Anger? Resentment? Who me?

I had one great teacher in my 12 years of el-hi schooling in Oregon. That is one more than my daughter had. (I never so much as whispered a breath of what I thought of the school system anywhere near her life, by the way.)

It's because I care about education so much that I deride these public schools so viciously. This piece from Harpers last year would describe most closely why:

http://www.rahoorkhuit.net/devi/hs/against_school.html.

And like the author, I have little hope for turning American public schools into a valuable educational forum, and last and least because of the funding of them. (And that is the punishment -- even tragedy -- to which American kids are subject.)

I even think I care about them far more than the average teacher does, whose preeminent concern now seems their own salaries, student ratios (much smaller than when I attended) and benefit packages. I found the whole push for that tax measure disingenuous at best. Apparently at long last, as of this past October, some small measure of contribution is now being made by the teachers toward that indefensibly high per-month medical benefit coverage. Too little, too late, but absolutely a necessary PR move if nothing else.

With all due respect, though, TTM, I very much did feel, and you have verified that in some small part, that those with $100,000 incomes were forcing those of us with $10,000 incomes to pay a tax that you could afford and that we could not. And I believe as much as I believe anything that these well-meaning people don't see the numbers or reality of the rest of us out there (very few of whom will be complaining -- until the next vote comes).




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