Is the idea of raising taxes dead in this political climate? No . . . and that was one of the points you can draw from the decision in Oregon tonight.
Last year, the Oregon Legislature passed two tax measures which were challenged. After a ferocious campaign, the voter verdict was in favor. With the great bulk of the votes in (what remains are widely scattered and unlikely to drastically change the percentages), yes on 66 stood at 54.4% and yes on 67 at 54%.
We'll have more on this in the days ahead, but for now, a few points to bear in mind.
One aspect of this genuinely is historic: Oregon voters have not approved a new tax or a tax increase in 80 years (when they okayed the income tax). This is a truly remarkable reversal.
The vote is a huge blow to Oregon Republicans. It brings to mind a parallel from 2005 in Washington state, when Democratic legislators passed a controversial gas tax and Republicans challenged it on the ballot. The voters upheld the gas tax, and in the 2006 election swept out a bunch of Republicans. The partisan dynamic in Oregon has just changed: If Democrats were on the defensive in the state in recent months, that's no longer true. Republicans are going to have to scramble - and come up with some new rationales.
This will provide a powerful incentive for Washington Democrats to come up with some form of new tax or other revenue source to patch their budget holes. This current experience in comparable (and even more tax-averse) Oregon, coupled with their 2005 experience, likely will be encouraging. And assuming whatever they do is reasonably well crafted, Washington Republicans may be wary of trying another ballot challenge only to risk more voter blowback.
Counties passing 66 and (with present incomplete numbers) were the same list: Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Hood River, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington; third-largest Clackamas was on the bubble. There was a line of thought that 66 might pass while 67 failed; not only was the vote very much the same for both, but it was very much the same for both almost everywhere. The vote also matched pretty closely the partisan split in the state, with one area of special vote: Marion/Polk, an area with lots of state employees but also an area traditionally resistant to money issues on the ballot.
You almost feel, many miles away, that exhale of relief from many Oregon legislators. Next month's session abruptly became vastly easier.
Did this provide a bit of a message nationally? Might it have a little impact on the Washington on the east coast? Just might.