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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 18, 2009 10:02 PM. The previous post in this blog was Something for everyone. The next post in this blog is Sneak preview. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's not a tax, it's a "tool for investment"

Portland's regional government, Metro -- formed decades ago because Oregon cities and counties couldn't be trusted with land use planning -- is making noises about levying a new tax on the residents within its boundaries. So that in addition to federal, state, county, transit, school, port authority, and city taxes, we can have a Metro tax, too.

And I'm sure they'll "invest" the money wisely, in whatever Hoffman Construction is in the mood to build next, plus a streetcar to get you there.

Comments (15)

Jack, I've sat through a few a your classes but I recall that there wasn't a tax you didn't approve of. This may be a first.

Given that I teach only about federal taxes, I think you jumped to a wrong conclusion.

Metro has the legal authority to levy an income tax. See their charter.

What they are hinting at is a way to pay for infrastructure improvements when they propose land for development and it won't be economically feasible for any private interest to provide that investment.

A fine example would be Damascus.

What if they'd levied an tax to pay for infrastructure development there? Is that more efficient?

What this amounts to is a transfer tax whereby they tax all for the benefit of a specific few.... taking money from already developed areas to provide services for specific undeveloped areas with no benefit to those contributors in already developed neighborhoods.

This is called empire building and any effort to enhance and rationalize their existence is what they seek.

Read Robert Liberty's paper on how he would accomplish this.

Simply put, Metro would tax land owners on their anticipated gain in value from the improvements whether the land was improved and the actual gain realized or not.

They'd use these funds to acquire lands to be kept in reserve for future development selling them back to us later when needed.
Metro of course would oversee and manage all at taxpayer expense, as well as benefiting from the increase in value while holding those lands in reserve.

This creates another massive obligation for residents and sustains their authority and right to exist. A sort of self perpetuating necessity for Metro to ensure their future at our expense beyond what they already provide for their budget.

Liberty's paper can be seen at http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=18904

Fair Growth and Farmlands

He brought this to City Council last year and they seemed quite interested in how this concept could be applied to areas like the Pearl in future when TIF and URAs could be treated in a similar fashion.

Metro also has the power to take over Tri-Met. The whole thing has a wicked Goldschmidt smell to it.

If Metro decides to levy a tax to everyone within their "boundries" they will find that the voters will just abolish Metro. Metro does NOTHING that local cities and counties can't do on their own. Metro is just another money sucking layer of unneeded government, when will people around here open their eyes and realize that?!

As I said, the only good reason to have Metro is that the cities and counties can't be trusted with land use decisions.

Tourists sometimes ask me what the main industry in Portland is, you know, just what it is that we are known for producing a lot of. Just what it is that is the main economic engine of the region.

My answer lately has been one word: Government.

This part of the world is so beautiful though, it really is a shame that it's run by power-drunk, flamboyantly corrupt Commissars ensconced in layers and layers and layers of bureaucracy. It cannot go on forever. Eventually they will run out of other people's money, and fresh pockets to pick.

Lessee, we are only up to cut # 783 out of the death by 1000 cuts method.

These guye really think that we just give them more money to chase after all the bad money they've spent is a good philisophy. Perhaps they should get a real job and earn real money in the real world instead of sitting and thinking of new things to spend it on all day.

TriMet was created several years before Metro was. The people who created Metro thought, quite reasonably, that a metropolitan government should someday run the metropolitan transit system, and got the power to take over TriMet.

In response, TriMet used what Wall Street calls the poison-pill defense. It inserted clauses in its bonds, stating that if TriMet were ever taken over by another government agency, the bonds would come due at once. If TriMet still does that, it would say something telling about the relationship between these two metropolitan agencies.

Keep In Mind folks that no matter what sort of delusional nonsense Metro's PR machine pumps out about "helping" taxpayers; virtually nowhere else in the USA do other people put up with this sort of garbage and extra taxation. Metro is simply another layer of government that needs to go away for good. The sooner that residents of the Portland metro area take control and put up a Measure to abolish the agency the better.

"As I said, the only good reason to have Metro is that the cities and counties can't be trusted with land use decisions."

I'm not sure I trust a hive of bureaucrats sitting in the middle of the city to do any better. All we have now is a bunch of planners, 90% of whom live in Portland, passing edicts on the surrounding towns.

To say that Metro is "just another layer of government" is too benign. Metro is the tool by which Portlanders dominate surrounding communities. The City Club set understand this very well, but no one admits it of course.

At least we can elect the powers that be at metro so we have a chance (however small with the way campaigns are bought and sold) for taxation with representation. However, we have NO say in the how the Port of Portland is governed. They take our taxes and then do the bidding of the airlines and their other corporate buddies.

"We have to get more efficient"...so I'm proposing inflated budgets and more spending. Go by streetcar!

A tale of three governments.

The Port of Portland, which owns a bunch of airports and docks. Does its work without much fanfare, and generally does a decent job. The airports - in particular, PDX - is profitable. The maritime operation requires some subsidy, to the tune of $8.3 million annually. That's just $5.14 per Port district resident (the three counties).

Metro - we're not really sure what it does, other than blow out a lot of hot air and tells people what they can't do, favors a few developers, and tells Vancouver what to do (while Vancouver responds with the middle finger well extended). I guess Metro runs the Zoo, a few parks (Blue Lake is the most notable), and a few facilities like the Convention Center, the Expo Center, the Schnitz. It has an elected board, but nobody really cares about it and the actual Board members get few if any total votes. And the Board members are usually the same folks, with the same agendas - there's no one to really shake things up.

Metro required $45.6 million in subsidies, mostly in debt financing to pay for the Convention Center. That's $28.25 per resident.

TriMet runs a light rail system. Oh, and they have some buses, too. But nobody rides them, they aren't "cool". They supposedly carry some 50% of so of the commute traffic in/out of downtown, but overall TriMet makes up about 4% of the total trip traffic in the region. Yet they keep saying they make a difference. (OK, I ride a bus, and my buses are pretty darn full...)

TriMet has two different taxes, a property tax (like the Port and Metro) and an income tax.

The Property Tax (which pays for MAX debt) is $5.51/resident.

The Income Tax (which pays for everything else, including the cost overruns for WES, a lot of the MAX construction that TriMet financed without selling new bonds, the employer benefits, Fred's trip to Australia, Steve Banta's large retention bonus, and those shiny new MAX trains, Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape Hybrids for its supervisors...oh, yeah, and those damn buses) cost $130.05 per resident.

Now those numbers are actually WORSE than what I printed, because TriMet's and Metro's boundaries do not include the entire three county area (whereas the Port does). So there are fewer residents to cover those costs (i.e. Wilsonville, Canby and Sandy are not part of TriMet's service area; nor is Corbett, Sauvie Island, Banks, North Plains, Gaston.)

TriMet has two different taxes, a property tax (like the Port and Metro) and an income tax.

Not really an income tax. Tri-Met has a payroll tax, which is necessarily backed up by a self-employment tax because of too many employers misclassifying employees as independent contractors. Investment income is not taxed at all -- it's a Republican's dream.


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