Yes on the Portland income tax
I support the proposed new Portland schools tax -- a 0.95 income tax to be imposed on residents of the city, with all the funds dedicated to the public schools. I'm not looking forward to writing that check, but on the whole, I think it's the right thing to do.
Education is crucial to the success of our city and metropolitan area, and without these tax funds, the school districts would take a major budget cut, leading the public schools further down the slippery slope to which they have been clinging for a decade or more. I'm happy that Mayor Potter has taken the initiative on this -- he's a much more palatable champion of the schools than his predecessor, or the strange folks who are running the county these days.
I have already heard many negatives being circulated about the tax plan, which was unveiled on Thursday. Some of the criticisms are valid, at least up to a point. But political pragmatist that I am, I think we need to take the lesser of two evils when it's available.
Is there too much administrative overhead in the public school budgets? Sure. Are there some lackluster teachers whose hides are being covered by an aggressive union? Probably. Is government wasting money on other, less important priorities? Definitely. Might there be inequities between the Portland district and the outlying school districts under the plan? I really can't tell from what I've read so far, but let's assume for the sake of argument that it's possible. Is all the talk about dedicating the tax to classroom-related expenses a bunch of budgetary smoke and mirrors? Yep.
So what? Without this money, regardless of whether it's theoretically possible to run an adequate education system, it's a 100 percent certainty that there won't be one. Starving the beast for money isn't going to turn it into a beauty.
Some of the other objections that have emerged sound like baloney. Larsie keeps harping on the fact that the tax wil be imposed only on city residents, and not on commuters (like him) who work in town but live elsewhere. Yes, and...? I assume that's because those who live elsewhere send their kids to school elsewhere.
Then there's the fact that state government pensioners won't pay the tax. I assume that's because state law forbids it. Not Mayor Potter's doing.
And the geniuses at The O keep nattering on about how we should vote on a property tax levy instead. Excuse me, people, but there's this thing called the double majority law, and the risk of not getting a 50 percent turnout for a May primary is too high to chance it. For now, the city income tax is the best we can do. (Heck, four years from now, when the new city tax would expire, there might be a double majority requirement in place for renewing it. I have no doubt some of our fervent anti-tax brethren have drafted up a petition on the subject, or they will soon.)
With this tax, others complain, Portland is seceding from the rest of Oregon financially. It's about darn time, if you ask me.
We'll be hearing a lot that the county income tax that just expired was supposed to be temporary. It was -- just a stopgap measure until the Legislature gets its act together. The schedule on that has been pushed back to shortly after the Winter Olympics in Hell in the year 2525.
We just got a fairly good-sized property tax reduction, in part because an older school levy ran out, and we ought to funnel those dollars back where they can do the most good. The city income tax won't be perfect. Far from it. But I'll be voting for it.