Writings and observations

The tax issue ballot fight, and beyond

The new group Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes, just launched with the purpose of overturning two tax measures passed in the last legislative session, actually has a point running a little beyond. It says says so explicitly and formally in its campaign filing with the state: In the Nature of Committee section, it says, “To support or oppose one or more cadidates that may support or oppose job-killing taxes. To oppose one or more job-killling tax measures.”

It is, by the way, pulling in strong money at a fast clip, $198,500 so far. Contributors include the Oregon Association of Realtors, Norm Poole Oil, Tyree Oil, Colvin Oil, Stein Oil, Byrnes Oil – lots of oil companies – the Portland Metropolitan Association of Building Owners and Managers, Morgan Distributing – the bucks are flowing in from the business community.

The two tax measures in question were more limited in scope than voters are likely to be led to believe. One provides only a small, incremental increase on income in the six-figure-per-year range and beyond; the other sets a generally modest increase on corporate taxes that in real dollars are far lower than they were a decade, or two, or three ago. Realistically, neither looks much like a job killer. But they were indisputably tax increases, and now two questions are on deck, the same two questions suggested in the OAJKT mission statement.

Will Oregonians, who have a generally consistent history of voting against tax increases no matter who, why or how much, vote to throw out this one?

And, will Oregonians punish the legislators who passed them?

The second question almost certainly grows out of the first. That means more will be at stake this year in the upcoming ballot issue fight. If the voters sustain the taxes, the second question likely will be moot; a lot of the fight may even go out of the tax critics. But if the anti-tax group is successful, the shape and future of Oregon government will be up for grabs.

The OAJKT, and its backers, clearly are taking this fight seriously. A great deal may weigh on how seriously the taxes’ supporters take it as well.

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