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Oregon Democrats bite the bullet on tax increases

While Washington legislators punted on tax increases, Oregon's Democratic majority passed some big increases. One reason for the contrast: Gov. Ted Kulongoski can't seek a third term, while Gov. Gregoire might still hope for one.

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An average Oregon income-earner will pay no more in direct taxation as a result of the tax increases, but the "tax and spend" label clearly will be applied with a very broad brush next year. Washington Democrats gained some insulation from that charge, at least for now, but much depends on quick economic recovery.

Floyd J. McKay, professor of journalism emeritus at Western Washington University, was a print and broadcast journalist in Oregon for three decades. Recipient of a DuPont-Columbia Broadcast Award for documentaries, and a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, he is also a historian and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington. He resides in Bellingham and can be reached at floydmckay@comcast.net.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Jun 15, 8:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Excuse me, but did you forget Tim Eyman?

In order to pass a tax increase in the Washington State Legislature, you need a 66.6% majority. Can you show us how Governor Gregoire or the legislative leadership of Brown & Chopp et al could have come up with that?

This comparison between political leadership in Washington & Oregon is, accordingly, not based in any reality beyond looking wistfully across the Columbia River.

Posted Mon, Jun 15, 9:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, of course I am aware of Eyman and the super-majority test, which I mentioned in my article. But this does not prevent Washington legislators from sending to voters any number of special taxes that will be paid by only a minority, or even an income tax on high-earning people, such as the Oregon Legislature passed. These ideas were considered here, but dropped.
Floyd McKay

Posted Mon, Jun 15, 9:39 a.m. Inappropriate

It is not exactly clear what we are to make of this. Is the writer implying that Washington legislators are cowardly for holding the line on taxes? The writer's statement, "The difference may be in the willingness of a governor to lead the battle for taxes to heal the economic wounds," implies that somehow increasing the citizens' tax burden and giving the government more money to squander requires "courage." This coming from a "professor emeritus" of journalism at a state university. Something is tragically wrong when our top journalists, instead of holding the government's feet to the fire and demanding accountability, encourage profligacy and the fleecing of working people's pockets by politicians.

Posted Mon, Jun 15, 9:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Something makes me think that Mr. McKay has never struggled to make a payroll for his employees. Nor has his livelihood depended on making a sale, keeping a customer happy or motivating employees. Rather, the Washington taxpayers have paid his salary (and, presumably, his pension).

When he implies that the Washington legislature should have had the "courage" to raise taxes, consider the source.

PJS

Posted Mon, Jun 15, 10:03 a.m. Inappropriate

"An average Oregon income-earner will pay no more in direct taxation as a result of the tax increases..."

And that, in itself, is not something to celebrate. If public funds can be raised by extracting more money from a diminishing slice of the population a rather unhealthy dynamic is reinforced; that there is no incentive to restrain taxes if those paying the taxes are a distinct and tiny (and probably not terribly popular) minority. So that portion of the Oregon population who make less than $125,000 (95%, more?) can cheerfully accept higher taxes on the "wealthy". Are you saying this is a Good Thing? and that their legislature is brave?

Somehow the sales tax enforces reality on the Washington State Legislature (and governor) and we should be thankful for that.

kieth

Posted Mon, Jun 15, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Gregoire and the Democratic majorities in Olympia aren't behaving as their colleagues of yore -- or Oregon's. In the old days, when there was a revenue shortfall, they'd solve it with a combo of cuts and new revenue (last big example involved passing $1 billion in taxes, tuition and fees back in 1993, leading to voter approval of spending limit I-601 and loss of Democratic majorities in 1994 (House) and 1996 (Senate, too.) I guess they learned that taxes have consequences. I fully expected a big old tax plan on the ballot this fall to fund popular stuff like higher ed enrollment, health care, kids' daylong kindergarten, etc. Gregoire gave them little, if any, political cover, the recession put many out of work, and tax aversion began growing by the day. Frank Chopp does not want to lose his majority. Lisa Brown, who wants to be governor, was not going to break her pick if the House wasn't going to go for taxes. Yes, they used Obama Bucks and tons of gimmicks and fund-balance grabs, but still, they trimmed $4 billion in real terms and didn't pass general taxes. Tuition From Hell, yes, and some fees. But none of the big three taxes, and the soak-the-rich1 income tax soon became just another theoretical, rhetorical flourish that didn't go over well, even in progressive Washington. After nearly 40 years of Olympia-watching, I can still be surprised.

Ammons

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 8:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, David, surprising. But will it do the job? What is the sense in short changing higher education? Are we going to be victimized by all these personal agendas that most of us could not care less about? Surprising but not very enlightened leadership.

Mikos

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