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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Splitting our ticket

The ballots are here for the two Oregon tax increase ballot measures in the January 26 election. We've been brooding a lot about these measures, and think they both stink from a policy standpoint. But we are not above the temptation to vote based on our own self-interest.

We're open to the suggestion that the well-to-do (defined as people with much higher incomes than ours) ought to be paying more than they already do for the wonderful lives that America makes possible for them. Under George Bush, federal taxes on the wealthy have been cut to the bone, and the Dunthorpe set has saved a bundle over the last eight years due to irresponsible revenue reductions at the federal level. They can afford to be soaked some more. Measure 66 does that, but Measure 67 doesn't. The taxes imposed by 67 would be passed on to the little guys -- the consumers and the workers -- by the big, bad businesses that the measure supposedly targets.

And so we're splitting our ticket -- holding our nose and voting yes on 66, but saying no to 67. As far as we're concerned, the legislature can have part of what it says it needs, and like the rest of us, it will just have to make do. Maybe it can lay off some of the 950 six-figure-earning bureaucrats listed in this Excel file. And the seven-figure football coaches with them.

Comments (55)

The problem is that they wont make do with what they have. Its never enough. They will always just come back to the trough rather than make cuts. This is why the only appropriate response to any proposed tax increase is a vote of 'no'.

I think M66 is just a foot in the door. Whats to keep them from lowering the income level during a future session without it going to the voters?

Whats to keep them from lowering the income level during a future session without it going to the voters?

Nothing. In case you missed it, the legislature instituted these taxes, and we are only voting on them now because of our initiative system.

Jack, I think you need to read the Wall Street Journal before you vote. The tax burden in Oregon is the second highest in the world. I choked on my tea at my local coffee shop.


I think you meant nation, not world.

Even though Oregon would have the 2nd highest income tax in the USA, it still doesn't have a sales tax like CA & NY.

Gotta compare apples to apples.

"The tax burden in Oregon is the second highest in the world."

Um, I think we'll need something to back up a claim like that.

Could someone tell me what's wrong with a flat tax on everyone with no re-defining income? What's wrong with everyone paying the same tax rate?

So what should they have done differently to raise revenue? It appears from your arguments that no increased taxation on business would get your support -- so should have they proposed even larger hikes in personal tax rates with M66, or applied it to an even larger set of folks (with lower incomes)?

I do think our relatively high state income tax is a negative for job creation. One of the biggest factors in corporate location decisions is simply where the executives want to live. I would assume that income tax burden would not be lost on these high earners as they make a decision.

George: "So what should they have done differently to raise revenue?"

You're assuming that raising revenue was the only option. They could have looked at cutting positions and programs, reforming the public benefits system, reforming the tax code altogether.


Your comments presuppose that the revenue should have been made up. See:

2009-11 Governor's Recommended Budget Totals $54.168 Billion - 8.4% Increase from 2007-09 Legislatively Approved

With an approximately 4.1% annualized increase in the budget at a time when GDP has contracted, or at least held at 0 since 2007, one has to ask why the increase is necessary. Is it possible that staff salaries could be cut? Positions eliminated? And if education has to be held harmless, how about NOT building new prisons when Multnomah County has a perfectly good unused jail sitting in NoPo?

Like Jack says, what about the 6-figure public employee salaries? Don't tell me there isn't a newly (circa 2007) enacted program out there that would be nice if we were rolling in it, but under an austerity budget, could safely be cut.

So what should they have done differently to raise revenue? It appears from your arguments that no increased taxation on business would get your support -- so should have they proposed even larger hikes in personal tax rates with M66, or applied it to an even larger set of folks (with lower incomes)?

GAS, baby, don't lose it.

You completely left out (as did Jack, to be fair) the question of whether revenue actually should be raised.

But, then, I guess carts and horses run backward in your hemisphere.

No surprises from you - but I'm still light-headed over JB's fall from grace on 67.

I'm sure it's just an aberration.

+ there's this.

If the measures don't pass, I'm willing to be that next year, that excel file will list the same 950 six-figure-earning bureaucrats as it does now. It will be the actual service providing employees that get the axe. And in huge number. Which senario would better serve the State's point:
one less regional DMV manager or two less representatives working the counter at your local DMV?

Voting against these bills will not change the way the State of Oregon operates. It will only hurt those who rely on the services the State provides.

Brian, they're going to say the same in a few years. And again a few years after that. So if not today, when DO you draw the line?

Make no mistake, we're headed for a repeat of California's current mess. Best for Oregon to have the budget shock now and deal with the structural problems in the tax code, then to keep voting for these patches.

Public budgets at the height of the boom were unrealistic, just like housing prices, stock values, and a lot of stuff. Trying to maintain those budget levels is not realistic.

Brian: One of the problems with 66/67 arguments--pro and con-- is ignorance. DMV operations are funded by fees--many of which went up last year--not general fund revenue.

no to both-keep it simple.

I love that list of yours!
Another Bojack special report!
I'm gonna vote with you on this!
I would tend to vote yes on both, since I vote against the forces that try to derail these sorts of things but I like the way you think!

They could have looked at cutting positions and programs. . .

The legislature faced a $4 billion hole in the General Fund for the upcoming biennium. They cut $2 billion in expenses from current service levels (including 2-3% pay cuts for state workers who were furloughed for 12 days), added $1 billion from federal stimulus funds, used most of the small rainy day/emergency funds that were lying around, and then raised $727 million in taxes. You can argue that "current service level" calculations are inflated, but keep in mind that things like health care costs are still going up quickly (and the bulk of this isn't for state employees, it's for the hundreds of thousands of poor people on Medicaid) and welfare rolls are increasing and prison population is increasing and school-age population is increasing, etc.

It is completely untrue to say that the state is raising taxes in order to "maintain budget levels." The cuts have already been significant. And the use of the "all funds" budget by the referendum opponents is completely and intentionally misleading.

WSJ says second highest in the nation if 66/67 pass:

I've also seen post saying second highest in the world just behind Denmark. But, I'll trust the WSJ over some of the other places claiming Denmark.

Hey, you folks who are paid up to 125K a year--as are some college employees and other bureaucrats I know--won't pay more in taxes or for services/goods with 66, so vote for it. But don't vote for 67; it'll cost ya. Talk about your class warfare!

As voters we have very simple tools to use when it comes to controlling the spending of government. We can vote yes on tax increases or no. All the discussion on who gets taxed and whether they deserve it or not is irrelevent to question of whether our state government is doing a good job with the taxes they already collect. Any discussion of where the money is spent is also irrelevent since those decisions are made by elected officials and bureaucrats.

My inclination is to vote no on all tax increases. It may be crude and at times cruel, but it is the only way we have of forcing those who hold the purse strings to make the tough decisions about priorities and funding.

I remember when Measure 50 passed and all of the screaming and hollering and gnashing of teeth by local governments claiming that the sky was going to fall if it passed. What happened was that runaway property taxation was controlled and people were able to afford to live in their homes, investment real estate had a predictable expense and the county had a reliable tax income number that they could plan on every year. Shockingly, the sky stayed in place.


While it may be true that the Bush tax cuts helped the rich, it may not benefit the state to offer the rich another excuse to leave and just jump across the river. Think about Phil Knight who made the budget last biennium last year by paying over 140 million in capital gains. What incentive do we have to keep these people here? He could move to Washington and not pay a nickel next time.

Take a look at what happened in Maryland:

If people want to move to Washington over taxes, you have to let 'em go. If he really wanted to save money, he could move to many other countries as well. Bon voyage.

"So what should they have done differently to raise revenue?"

How about going back and cutting spending responsibly instead of threatening to close schools if we don't give exactly what they want?

Here's my problem - We need to address the issue now instead of waiting for something to really break. The legislature/Ted got us here, they need to get us out.

I do mean responsibly. Otherwise, these taxes are one more patch on a sinking boat. This patch gives the problem two more years to fester.

"They cut $2 billion in expenses"

2007-2008 All funds = $48B
2009-2010 All funds = $53.7B

Saying you only get a $5.7B increase instead of a $7.7B increase is a cut in words only.

Bon voyage? BON VOYAGE??? Phil and the other money-makers like him can not only move their own bony butts to Washington (or Nevada, which would be a much better choice), they can also take all the jobs away. It's not just Phil's money this state will lose. The company I work for has been carefully moving its corporate office out of California to a less tax-intensive state - taking jobs with it.


Are you suggesting that since you don't personally like Mr. Knight that he and others can take a hike resulting in less revenue? Higher taxes and less revenue does not seem logical.

Denmark's tax rate tops out at 63%.

Oregon's tax revenue in 2007 (basically the same as 2008-09) breaks down *roughly* like this (Census data):

Income tax: 44.1%
Property tax: 31.1%
Selective sales taxes: 8.6%
Licenses & fees: 12.6%
Corporate income tax: 3.6%

Oregon relies on income tax more than any other state in the nation. Washington state, however, relies more heavily on sales tax than any other state in the nation.

Guess which two states are near the top of lists of states most affected by recession?

Across the US, the 2007 average breaks down like this:

Income tax: 22.6%
Property tax: 30.1%
Selective sales taxes: 10.9%
Licenses & fees: 8.2%
Corporate income tax: 4.7%
Sales tax: 23.5%

I wonder what these statistics mean?

Miles, I dislike having to write it again, but yours and others continual posting that The legislature faced a $4 Billion dollar hole in the General Fund" is totally false, as Don Smith posted.

The legislature first asked for a $6 Billion increase, "trimmed" it to $4 B, while inflation from the prior biennium was less than 3% vs the 8.4% $4B increase. Even at a $4 Billion increase that is a 28% increase in the state's budget.

The public gets it. When a employee goes in and asks for a 8% increase in wages, then gets only a 6% raise and then shouts out "I've been shafted, robbed!", while the employees in the mailroom get no pay raises (us other taxpayers), then there isn't any sympathy, but actually outrage. There's more outrage when the taxpayers who got no wage increases have to pay the others' budget increases.

Do you understand this?

That XLS is interesting. According that there are 32,619 employees with an average pay of $51,442.05. I assume this doesn't include benefits.

I thought the avg Oregon worker made something like $45K and I know the benes can be nowhere near as good as PERS and the medical insurance they get.

"you don't personally like Mr. Knight"

I respect Mr Bog, but I somehow don't think Mr Knight cares as much.

Here's something to think about folks. We moved to the Reno, Nevada in mid-November. Our water and sewage rates are about 40% of what we paid in Oregon. And our combined electric and gas bill with NV Energy is about 10% less than what we paid in Oregon, despite having one of the worst snow storms since 2005 this past month. While my wife and I are hardly rich by any measure, we will not be paying close to $14,000.00 next year in income taxes to the State of Oregon. Yes - Nevada has it's budget problems too - but here at least they are putting public employees on short schedules and actually terminating people. The City of Reno alone is cutting 54 positions and not filling another 22 positions. These cuts include several fire fighters and closing at least one fire house. I see nothing of the kind going on in Oregon.

Phil Knight isn't leaving Oregon over something so small.

The miniscule share of Oregon's tax revenues that is paid by business is a disgrace. It could be described as a perversion of the concept of "fair share." That's why I'll vote for Measure 67. On the other hand, regardless of the need to make income tax rates less regressive, it should be a basic principle that heavy reliance on the personal income tax -- repeatedly -- dooms the budgetary forecasters to a roller-coaster future. It is simply absurd.

That's why I'll vote against 66.

From what I've read, it appears that the legislature refused to modify the notorious kicker as a modest step in the right direction.

One of these decades, Salem will learn how to write a sales tax proposal that is coherent, honest, and credible.

"The miniscule share of Oregon's tax revenues that is paid by business is a disgrace."

Don, I am afraid you're mis-informed on this issue. I am not attacking you personally or calling you out. I am just wanting to inform you. I believe you've been mislead by those deceptive commercials that play dirty tricks. If my family didn't own a business, I'd believe it too.

Businesses pay a $10 corporate minumum, that is correct. But in addition to this tax, business owners pay the same income tax you do. If the business makes a profit, and the owners or any share holder takes advantage of this profit, they pay an income tax on this profit. Why would they need to pay more than you?

and they do...

In addition to their personal income taxes, businesses pay payroll taxes for each employee. There is a local tri-met tax, and a Multnomah County personal property tax (Desks, chairs, computers, etc are taxable annually under this tax.) There are numerous other city, county and state fees a business may pay, even including system access fees should a business want to change a location or remodel. So Businesses, in addition to employing people who pay taxes that fund the coffers, also fund the coffers themselves through state and local taxes. Why should Business be faced with even more burden than they have now, when they are struggling the most? 67 doesn't only raise the corporate min, you know. They are also going to retroactively tax some business on gross receipts.

And these taxes are permanent, not temporary, which the business alliance would have endorsed.

Please, do not buy the deceptive tactics that the public employee unions are trying to sell on the commercials.

And while yes, everyone hates big banks and credit card companies, and we'd all like to see them suffer (They screw their customers that have become slaves and then give big bonuses to their bosses) a vast majority of businesses that will be negatively affected by this 67 will be small business. Mom and pop businesses and the like who are a large sector of the economy, and who employ a lot of people. These businesses are far from evil, as they would have you believe. We small business families are fighting right now to keep people employed and keep the quality of living up for our employees, while working more than 60 hours a week and not even seeing a profit at this moment for this work, sometimes missing paychecks. Please, I implore you to reconsider 67.


As far as the regressiveness of taxes goes, Sales Tax is the most regressive. Many businesses survive on the sole fact that there is no sales tax in Oregon. Hayden Island, Jantzen Beach and Cascade station would die as soon as there was a sales tax. The rich in CA also like to make shopping trips to Portland. Why buy a Rolex in LA, when you can buy it in Portland and use the savings on the tax to fun a fun weekend up north?

What we really need to do is to cut spending at the state level. No more absurd and inflated wind farm subsidies, etc. There is so much we can cut before we need to increase taxes.

We do need a new basketball arena for the state university, though.

Yes Jack, you are correct!!!

Actually, not only do we need ONE basketball arena, we need one for each Women's and Men's basketball. Because as Paulson has taught us, stadiums CANNOT BE MULTI-PURPOSE!

Of course, there's the Volley Ball Stadium we need to build too. A game about as exciting as Soccer. Maybe we can fund it with a sewer surcharge on everyone's bill. Hell, we tax smokers to pay for education, why don't we tax bicyclists not to pay for bike infrastructure, but to pay for eco roofs?

Yep, Gill sucks. Maybe coach can get his brother in law to help with that.

Hey, is screw the other guy first a "theory of taxation" or just of justice?

Jack, the more wealthy people and businesses we run off the more we'll have to cover these "HUGE, ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME, EVERY-SCHOOL-IS-ABOUT-TO-EXPLODE" financial crises by taxing guess who? Yep. You and me. Government will get their pound(s) of flesh. When Phil Knight ain't here, they'll get it from whoever is left.

WSJ "second highest in the nation" is speaking about income tax only.

It doesn't factor in the fact that Oregon has no sales tax, while most states have BOTH a sales tax AND an income tax.

So you think all the rich people are going to move out of state because of this tax increase? OK, who's going to buy their McMansion? Either they'll take a huge loss on it, way more than the extra taxes they will pay, or they will sell it to another rich person.

Do you understand this?

Yes, LW, I do. The "inflation" that you note (are you using CPI-U?) may have been less than 3% for all goods and services last biennium -- and it's much lower now, running at a negative for the last 12 months -- but that does not apply to health care, which was still running in the 8-10% range. And it does not account for service increases. Do you know how many more people are on Medicaid, welfare, and food stamps now than last biennium? Do you know how many more are in jail? How many more kids are in school? This is what "current service level" means. It's not a made-up figure. If you want to quibble with the specifics, fine, but it's absurd to say that state expenditures should grow at the same rate as CPI, unless you're willing to cap the prison, schools, and social program populations.

Others here keep using the "all funds" budget, which is totally useless as an analytical tool. You cannot spend gas taxes on cops, you cannot spend DMV fees on health care, you cannot spend federal Medicaid matching money on education. IT IS ILLEGAL. The legislature increased gas taxes and got $1 billion in federal stimulus (so far), so of course the all funds budget is going up. That does not mean we can fund schools, health care, and public safety at an adequate level.

12 furlough days over 2 years is a 2.3% cut. Big deal. Goverment wages have caught up wirh the private sector because of COLA raises and they still have the benefit package.

Funny how a 2.3% cut in 100% of state workers' topline, gross income -- including that of some pretty low income folks -- is a nothing "Big deal" to you, but people are wailing and gnashing their teeth over personal tax hikes that only affect folks with over $125k in taxable that will only affect about 3% of taxpayers and crying about how raising the minimum tax for C-corps $140 and following WA state with a small gross revenues tax is the end of the world.

A 2.3% cut, in exchange for two weeks plus of time off -- and you still get to keep the obscene pension and other Cadillac benefits? You're right, that doesn't faze the many people in the private sector who have been totally trashed by the bad economy. Go by streetcar!

Gil Johnson

Unlike you and I the rich don't need to sell their mansion to move. They don't even need to physically move to move. Just listing their vacation home in another state as their primary residence would suffice. Come on think about it.

And before you say "why aren't they doing that now?"

Right now it is too much of a pain to do so but we're about to make it worth their while.

"The miniscule share of Oregon's tax revenues that is paid by business is a disgrace."

You do realize they pay a tax on profits? This measure is about paying taxes on gross sales when they DON'T make a profit.

I am always taken aback when people talk about "the rich" and how they are going to behave like they do or think differently than anyone else. The truth is they have all of the same worries about family,housing, income and education that everyone else does. There is a lot of speculation of what "Rich People" will do if we raise taxes. They will do what you would do in the same situation.

For example: suppose you lived in an apartment community. You liked living there and you know that moving is a pain in the ass. Then the rent goes up, and while you don't like it you stay because moving is a pain in the ass. Then they start charging to use the work out room, and parking is limited unless you want to pay for another space. Then you want to have a pet and there is a huge deposit required. And then the rent goes up again.

Then you see another apartment community nearby that has lots of the same ammenities, the rent is lower and the fees are less. So you move even though it is a pain in the ass because it is worth it.

That is how "Rich People" think too.

The miniscule share of Oregon's tax revenues that is paid by business is a disgrace

This has been a major TP on all blue blogs and I am confused. THere are 55 individual taxpayers for every C-corp taxpayer and the individuals have $13 in taxable income for every $1 corporations do.

What share should they be paying?

For those saying that there are somehow "billions" sitting around unused:

The respected Tax Foundation reports that, for 2007, personal income taxes amounted to 72% of Oregon's state revenue. That's putting too much reliance on that source, especially when corporate tax share has consistently declined. Yes, businesses have many other financial burdens, but homeowners in our area also face rising costs of bond issues for many local and regional entities, plus (in Portland) the growing unfunded liabilities of public safety pensions. As far as the regressiveness of a sales tax, every state that has one provides exemptions--some very generous--for such things as food and medicine. Oregon's last proposal offered nothing like this. Who wouldn't vote against such a stupid measure?

That's putting too much reliance on that source, especially when corporate tax share has consistently declined.

Then either kick out 20% of the individuals or find a way to create more businesses. Either option will decrease the % of taxes collected from individuals.

Does anyone have the full article where the WSJ points to Oregon as having or will have the second highest overall taxes in the world behind Denmark?

When I go to the Journal its not up there and the link that someone posted does not go anywhere & I get a error message from the WSJ.

Thanks so much


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Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
At this date last year: 155
Total run in 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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