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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why Washington's growing faster than Oregon

Could it be the lack of a personal income tax? The nationwide numbers suggest so.

Comments (34)

Super. Let's crank it up to 11.

Correlation isn't always causation. For instance, Texas has never had a state income tax (and we have multiple entries on our joke of a state Constitution that prevent one from ever being instituted), but that's only due to the income coming in from oil and gas leases. We have a lot of other reasons for increases in jobs out here (particularly since Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston are becoming significant IT hubs in their own rights), but having no state income isn't an overwhelming factor in getting people to move here.

Washington, though, I could see. When I lived in Portland, I remember the number of Washington-based co-workers working in Portland, shopping in Portland, and making damn sure to fill up their gas tanks on the Oregon side of the Columbia...and then driving home to cry about how taxes were eating them alive.

It would be much easier to compare one state to another if you look at the total tax burden versus the services that government provides.

And any state without an income tax obviously has to make up the difference through other means.

Also, since Oregon isn't growing in population very rapidly, I imagine that a lot of people would think that's actually a good thing, and that Oregon must be doing something right.

It could be that they just have, you know, actual JOBS there, not our slacker mix of government sinecures, barista shifts, and band gigs.

Doesn't Washington's gross receipts tax just get passed down, ultimately, to workers in that state?

Probably more to consumers than to employees. But it's less offensive to people that way.

In Europe, they have national sales taxes, but they're disguised as taxes on the businesses that make things. The consumers pay them, but they don't ever see the number.

When you're competing for investment, it might be a good idea to hide the taxes as much as possible.

The power elite in Oregon likes it this way. No growth is the answer to what they feel life is all about. Of course they have the money to enjoy the outdoors here and the peons don't. This was explained years ago in articles about their climb to power.

Another issue that keeps things they way they are is the placement of the state colleges. MIT and Stanford have created a number of businesses in and around their campuses. The main school in Oregon that teaches engineering and design is OSU, but how many companies have been created in its shadow?

In fact it would be interesting to know how many of its graduates have stayed in state. If, as I believe, many of the graduates go out of state to find work then the tax dollars going to support that school is just money down the drain.

"It would be much easier to compare one state to another if you look at the total tax burden versus the services that government provides."

The problem is that tax systems by their very nature affect people at different income levels differently. The Tax Foundation ( Oregon's average total tax burden at 9.4% while Washington's is a marginally lower 8.9% (About $500 on a $100,000 taxable income).

On the other hand people with lower incomes do worse in a state like Washington with no income tax but high sales taxes. A study done by Money Magazine and published earlier this year showed that a retired couple with $60,000 a year in income paid about $500 more in total taxes in Washington than in Oregon.

The interesting thing about the Money Magazine article is that it acknowledged that people tend to focus the tax debate on the income tax because it's the easiest thing to calulate. So what may be hurting Oregon is not so much the fact of higher tax burden but the perception of it.

Correction the retiree study was done by Kiplinger magazine.

Also, since Oregon isn't growing in population very rapidly, I imagine that a lot of people would think that's actually a good thing, and that Oregon must be doing something right.

We got linchpins, baby. We're all set for that 1.2 million influx that's going to happen any day now. Once that Milwaukie light rail line is done, you're gonna see the empties in South WhaddaFront fill up in a snap!

So gullible and accepting the people were to buy the plan that we had to lose our quality of life now to make room for years from now for that 1.2 million influx! Plus we paid plenty as I recall reading about a billion a year to subsidize that growth!
This link relates to year 2000:
Summary of Statewide Growth Subsidies
. . The statewide growth subsidies evaluated in this report total $1.14 billion for the year 2000. This figure includes only state and local government spending and does not include any federal funds. It is a conservative estimate, since not all of the subsidies could be reasonably determined and since our estimates tended to err on the low side. . .

More likely it is the fact that Washington chose airplane manufacturing over Oregon's lumber mills. Boeing plans to build out 2 new plants in WA by 2020, Oregon is closing down its last major timber mill by that time.

We need some real manufacturing jobs, income taxes mean nothing to corporations.

Texas Triffid Ranch: Washington, though, I could see. When I lived in Portland, I remember the number of Washington-based co-workers working in Portland, shopping in Portland, and making damn sure to fill up their gas tanks on the Oregon side of the Columbia...and then driving home to cry about how taxes were eating them alive.
JK: Of course they were crying - they were forced to pay all Washington taxes PLUS Oregon’s income tax.

And just to rub it in, they might be forced to pay bridge tolls to finance Metro’s toy train to Vancouver to enrich the condo mafia.


It is also true that the fastest-growth states in each region tend to have the least land-use regulation. California is far more regulated than Oregon, and Oregon more than Washington. Texas has the least land-use regulation in the country.

The tax differences have been around for decades (and states with no income taxes tend to have high sales and/or property taxes). The regulatory disparities, however, are relatively new. I suspect it is regulation, not taxes, that makes the big difference.

Adding a bit to the antiplanner comments if I may. Oregon's land use laws drive up the costs of housing and since many of the home owners in Oregon pay their mortgage to out of state mortgage banks the increased costs shift money from the local home owners to out of state thus depriving the local economy of monetary resources.

But what the hell, the noisy elite is happy. So much for the buy local folks.

It's time for the "green economists" to fess up: The "Green economy" does not - I repeat, DOES NOT!!!, create net jobs.

In the last few days in the Big O I have seen Environmentalsts claim that eliminating logging and most natural resource jobs in Southern Oregon will create a whole slew of jobs related to restoration and recreation. Yeah - it'll create a lot of minimum wage, part time, no benefits jobs - and even the numbers of those jobs will be fewer than the full time, benefits paying, goods exporting jobs that were lost as a result.

Washington - as well as many other countries that Oregon likes to prop up as examples - knows that you must have a sustainable export economy to survive. Germany survives not because it marks its territory off limits to development, but because it encourages manufacturing jobs and factories. The Netherlands is a very small country but still has enough exports - as well as is a major shipping hub for all of Europe, which allows it to secondarily benefit from Germany and other countries. (Portland does serve as a transportation hub, but it is much smaller than the other Pacific Ocean ports - San Diego, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver) - and because it is so mechanized it actually provides few jobs.

Couple a service industry economy with high real estate prices (and insane urban growth restrictions that force real estate prices above what the market can sustain) and it's a recipe for disaster.

Another vote for land use rules gumming up the works here. Oregonians think rather highly (insert pot joke here) of their property values. The easy money loans of the last 10 years didn't help. Prices skyrocketing even in places like Bend and southern Oregon to levels that could in no way be met by local job income being a prime example. CA retirees and a healthcare market for them don't make for a strong economy.

Washington, like most state that brag about not having an income tax, does have nasty little taxes like the B&O and a sale tax. And other under the radar revenue drivers. We will never vote in a sale tax and the consequences of that is a state income tax and a rather harsh one at that.

Aren't we overlooking the elephant in the room? Unless I'm mistaken, hasn't Portland regretably become the tail that wags the Oregon dog by having a large effect on any statistics concerning the whole state?

True the statewide tax burden isn't as bad as other states, but in the dog's tail (or tumor, depending you your point of view), you have exorbitant and misrepresented taxes and fees, control of housing supply without price control and increasingly unattractive job opportunities. Combine that with a statewide stinky job market and I'm not surprised there's little growth here.

I wouldn't be surprised if the only overall growth in the state are the young and unemployed moving to Portland to chase ideological fantasy and criminal activities moving into the less populated areas.

Yeah I think Portland does skew things. Google and Facebook have opened server farms in Oregon and intel is expanding. That may be more to do with cheap hydropower, but they could also find that in Washington. But their facilities are in the Gorge, Prineville and Hillsboro, respectively. Far away from Portland.

Portland doesn't 'skew' Oregon, it IS Oregon. 60% of the state's population lives in the Portland metro area.

Add in the populations of the Salem and Eugene metro areas and you get to a whole 80% of the state's population.

Contrary to its image, and appearance on the map, Oregon is primarily home to an heavily urbanized population, with a corresponding lifestyle and set of preoccupations. The overwhelming majority of these people spend essentially no time venturing outside the urbanized area.

Regrettable, but a fact.

Texas Ranch, besides the oil industry and other components of Texas you mention, there's also the green/solar industry of Texas.

I had a interesting conversation with a lady who works with the State of Texas in this industry. She laughed at the claims Oregon makes about being the leader and all the other claims Sam, Ted, etc. makes about Oregon. And she grew up here, so she wasn't being biased. There is many times over more green/solar commerce there than in Oregon.

"When you're competing for investment, it might be a good idea to hide the taxes as much as possible."

Jack, I'm glad that you make the point that taxes on business are actually paid primarily by consumers.

But I don't think it's ever a good idea to hide such taxes. Oregonians (and all Americans) are demanding more transparency in government affairs.

If politicians want to tax consumers - they should be open about it and tax them - not tax business and hope their constituents will be fooled. That's as bad as using sewer fees for bike paths, or urban renewal schemes to enrich chosen developers.

It makes total sense to me that the solar industry would do better in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California than here. That's simple geography, something I think our local politicians must've flunked out on.

That too is an excellent point, and sadly local politics is about as transparent as mud. After all, wouldn't transparency make it difficult to pursue political agendas?

(Good heavens! I really need to proofread better-my apologies to all)

jc, the number of the south's solar days has little to do with the industry and it's location, especially as Sam and Co. paints the picture. I was referring to the manufacturing/research/headquarters portion.

In that case, it sounds like another instance of industry that would rather be somewhere else, which given Jack's original topic to this post, says a lot right there.

It makes total sense to me that the solar industry would do better in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California than here.

Somebody better get the word out on this to the Germans.

Lee, that's been a very interesting sea change over the last two decades. In 1990, Texas Agriculture Secretary Jim Hightower lost his seat to our current unbearable gubernatorial cross, Rick Perry, because Hightower was pushing for expansion of agriculture outside of wheat and cattle. Now, organic farms are exploding across the state, and we produce the blueberries and Christmas trees that caused Hightower's critics to blow gaskets. Likewise, any suggestion of solar arrays or wind turbines out here would cause oil lobbyists to go running to Austin, crying like little girls with skinned knees. Now, drive to DFW Airport and try not to see a wind turbine taking advantage of our incessant south winds.

I think that's what's scary about the situation in Oregon versus Texas. I'm the last person to suggest that the place is perfect, but that's also the reason why I stay here. Very rapidly, as the "statehood for South Oregon" forces are making evident, there's a battle between Portland's interests and those of the rest of the state. The folks further south are looking back on the good old days where you could make a good living from lumber, and getting ticked off at how they see Portlanders preventing them from doing so. If Portland was offering a real revenue alternative, one that could be shared with the rest of the state, that would be one thing. Yammering about attracting the "creative class", and in doing so attracting nothing but hipsters and other parasites, though, is another.

Stepping out of my libertarian shoes for a moment.

I think one of the best things for the state would be to develop the port at Coos Bay. They might be able to get some of that shipping that heads south to LA/Long Beach these days.

The numbers don't suggest any such thing. That you're promoting the economic stylings of Michael Barone as even slightly plausible is ridiculous.

Where would a port of Coos Bay ship to? You can't just plop a port in the middle of nowhere and expect it to pull traffic in from 1,000 miles away. A port is a transfer point from land to sea transport modes and vice versa. Goods have to come into the port from overseas and go somewhere by land from the port, or the opposite.

The problem is, while Coos Bay was a great spot to ship local timber out of, there's not much reason to bring anything back there because it's not near to any markets for foreign goods. You can far more easily bring imports to Seattle or San Francisco or--to a lesser extent--Portland. If you unload your goods at Coos Bay, what are you going to do with them? LA/Long Beach is a lot closer to major highways, rail lines, and end markets than Coos Bay. I just don't see how that's a practical solution.


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