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    Can Oregon teach us about tax reform?

    Commentary: The state's beloved governor is planning a fourth run for office alongside a major tax reform initiative. Paging Governor Jay Inslee.
    Gov. John Kitzhaber

    Gov. John Kitzhaber Oregon/Flickr

    Some would consider advocating for major tax reform while running for governor bad politics. John Kitzhaber, though, is apparently not among them. Not only is Oregon Governor Kitzhaber planning to run for a record fourth term as governor, he wants to overhaul his state’s tax system by enacting a sales tax, as the Washington Post reported back in October.

    Kitzhaber, a Democrat, announced in December that he will run for a second consecutive term, the limit under Oregon’s constitution. He also served two terms in the 1990s.

    Even before announcing, Kitzhaber outlined a plan to start a new “conversation” on comprehensive tax reform; a process he began by enlisting formerly distant representatives of business and labor to draft sales tax proposals together.

    If successful, he may also have at least a modest impact on Washington state’s revenue and the border economy, especially in Clark County, where people will drive into Oregon just to shop tax-free.

    But win or lose, it will be a fascinating exercise for Washingtonians to watch and perhaps learn from. Both Washington and Oregon are overly-dependent on a single — albeit different — tax source. (In Washington, that's sales tax; in Oregon, it's income tax.) And both have struggled to adequately fund public education.

    Oregon’s current tax reform discussion began in 2013, when the state Legislature held hearings on two bills: One, Senate Bill 824, would add a 5 percent sales tax and cap personal income tax at 6 percent.

    That bill would take effect only if voters approved the second bill, Senate Joint Resolution 36. A constitutional amendment, SJR36 would limit the sales tax to 5 percent and specify several important exemptions: Water, food, clothing, drugs, medical and mobility equipment and utilities would not be taxed.

    In the first two years, a fiscal analysis estimates, the two bills would bring in an additional $760 million.

    A sales tax is sure to be a contentious issue – especially in the greater Portland area and Multnomah County, where Washington residents often drive a short distance just to shop tax-free. For their part, Washington legislators have tried to attract Oregon shoppers by enacting a sales tax exemption for residents of states with less than 3 percent sales taxes.

    A 5 percent tax in Oregon is likely to have a small but significant positive impact on Washington’s economy. Currently, sales tax revenues per capita for Clark County, which lies on the Oregon border, are low compared to Cowlitz and Lewis counties to the north.

    Attempts to install a sales tax in Oregon have been failing since the 30s. Most recently, in 1993, 75 percent of Oregonians voted against a ballot measure that would have dedicated sales tax revenue to education.

    Kitzhaber’s reform efforts, now underway, will need bipartisan support. Democrats currently have slim legislative majorities, but Oregon’s constitution requires three-fifths supermajorities in both houses to pass revenue increases.

    But Governor Kitzhaber is clearly ready for what will certainly be an uphill battle.

    A team of business, labor, and education representatives he’s assembled, supported by both Democrat and Republican pollsters and researchers, is already working on a sales tax proposal. The goal: A 2016 ballot measure that would introduce Oregon’s first sales tax.

    And if anyone could make it happen, it would be the wildly popular governor gearing up to serve a fourth term.

    “The final big challenge on the cost side,” Kitzhaber explained in November, “is restructuring our antiquated tax code and system of public finance to make sure that it is equitable, that it is stable, and that it is aligned with the kind of economic activity and the kind of jobs that we want to create. Not last year, but in the next 10, 15, 20 years in the state of Oregon.”

    Dick Nelson is a former Washington State legislator. He currently contributes to the public debate on state and local fiscal issues through research and commentary. As when he was in the legislature, he prefers the Democratic Party.

    Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!


    Posted Thu, Feb 6, 8:07 a.m. Inappropriate

    Adding a state income tax to an already-existent state sales tax in Washington would not be reformative...it would be expansive double-dipping by a state government that has already proven itself to be irresponsible with the money we're sending them now. Why would anyone but a fool believe any added confiscatory revenue would be spent any more wisely? The track record in Olympia shows otherwise.

    Posted Thu, Feb 6, 8:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    Pretty sure you're missing the point. Think revenue-neutrality. This state's sales tax rate would be reduced, and a high-earner income tax implemented.

    The goal is improving our worst-in-the-nation state/local taxing structure by easing the financial burden on lower middle class individuals and families, and increasing the tax burden on profitable businesses (mostly) and the wealthiest households. The state's pie wouldn't get bigger, but better ingredients would be used.

    A state income tax should be part of the revenue-raisers Washington uses. California now is running a large budget surplus -- it is billions of dollars in the black -- and it was that state's income tax that caused that good development:


    Why, exactly, don't the democrats here want to emulate that success?


    Posted Thu, Feb 6, 12:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    After the debacle of Cover Oregon (http://www.katu.com/news/investigators/Paging-Dr-Kitzhaber-What-did-Gov-know-about-Cover-Oregon-collapse-242834551.html), Governor Kitzhaber may lack the political wherewithal to lead this venture. As Guilty notes above "tax reform" equals "higher revenue"; the appeal to fairness is almost entirely cover.


    Posted Thu, Feb 6, 12:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    the appeal to fairness is almost entirely cover

    I'll bite.

    Let's assume you are correct and the "hidden" goal is to raise some additional revenue for the state. We'll assume reducing the sales tax and implementing a high-earner income tax that targets profitable businesses most heavily would increase the size of the state's overall tax revenue figure by a couple of percentage points.

    I'd be fine with that outcome.

    Why would you have a problem if the state obtained some additional revenue as part of making the overall taxing structure more fair to lower income households? Do you fancy yourself a savior of profitable businesses, doing God's Work by railing against the state possibly getting additional revenue from them?


    Posted Thu, Feb 6, 3:54 p.m. Inappropriate

    The short answer: the "couple of percentage pints" will not be a one-time thing. It will be "couple of percentage points every biennium. The slightly longer answer is that the income tax has the support that it does because it's a tax someone else will pay. A tax that like that will encounter few obstacles, yes! let's fund social programs, fix road, provide free broadband, and let's have those other guys pay for it! I argue that if it's worth doing we should be willing to pay for it.


    Posted Thu, Feb 6, 6:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    Couple of points here:

    -- Presumably the revenue from a progressive tax would be used to fund the same things the state now uses sales tax revenue to fund, so "broadband" isn't likely to be a big new cost item for the state if the taxing structure became more fair.

    -- Obviously profitable businesses and rich individuals want our worst-in-the-nation-for-people taxing system to get more regressive. Those special interests want roads, transit, social safety nets, health care for the poorest, and all other government services now provided. However, they just want all of that paid for by taxes that cost them little and hit the poor and the households of modest means the hardest. That's why kieth's vision of an appropriate taxing structure fundamentally is unfair.

    -- Follow kieth's logic forward -- he's suggesting 1) only sales taxes are justified (because nobody living here can escape them), and 2) B&O; taxes, estate taxes, payroll taxes, taxes on commercial property acquisitions, capital gains taxes and income taxes all are inappropriate revenue-raisers because only "those other guys" pay them.


    Posted Thu, Feb 6, 4:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    Popularity among politicians isn't as popular as it once was, and it's often over-rated. I wish my friend John Kitzhaber luck, but as he sure remembers, even the most popular Oregon governor in history, Tom McCall, failed to enact comprehensive tax reform. After reluctantly giving support to legislative Republicans' plan for a sales tax in 1969--it went down by an 8 to 1 margin--Tom presented income and property-tax reforms that would have given Oregon the most progressive tax system in the country. This one did better--it lost by only a 3 to 2 margin. The emotional McCall had to be talked by his staff out of resigning. A good thing, his best years were ahead. If Kitzhaber can pull this one off he may lose some popularity but gain in history's ranking by more than his record years in office.

    Posted Thu, Feb 6, 7:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    Floyd McKay: Thanks for referencing that 1970's-era effort by McCall ("Tom presented income and property-tax reforms that would have given Oregon the most progressive tax system in the country."). I didn't know about those efforts.

    That attempt to provide Oregon's people with the most progressive taxing structure in the country is the exact opposite of what our state's legislature was doing at that time (handing massive regressive taxing powers to municipalities and hiking the state's sales tax to 6.5%). So Floyd McKay, why do you think our state legislators went all-out in the direction they did, and created the most regressive state/local taxing structure in the country? Do state legislators here dislike the poor? Are they mere puppets of wealthy business interests and rich individuals who don't want to pay their fair share (when compared to their wealthy peers in the other states)? I'd be interested in your perspectives. TIA.


    Posted Fri, Feb 7, 10:41 a.m. Inappropriate

    Is our sales tax truly regressive? In theory, certainly yes. However, we exempt rent, food, medical, and many services.

    I remember reading a report, a couple years ago, by a national firm providing statistics on how our taxes affect different income groups. It was cited in a Crosscut article. Can't remember the firm any more.

    Anyway, I think it claimed that those in poverty (I think under $20K) were paying 30% of their income in taxes. While that may be true, one must break down the figures to see how sales tax plays into that. I asked them for a breakdown but never received a response. Perhaps they thought I was insignificant to them (could be) or perhaps they were publishing misleading info.

    Let's take a simple look: Assume someone makes $30K - that's about what you would get if you worked full time on $15/hour. If your lodging costs $1000/month, utilities $200/month, food $200/month, that subtotals $12000 + $2400 + $2400. Next, there might not be any federal tax taken, but there will be FICA at roughly 8% (including Medicade); that's $2400. So, net disposable income is $30K minus all the stuff listed = $10800. Sales tax is 10% (in Seattle), so the max sales tax this person could pay is $1080.

    So my conclusion is that someone at $30K annual income would pay a maximum of $1080 in state sales tax, or 3.6%. Only 3.6% !

    It's quite possible that studies include other taxes such as B&O;, license tabs, etc. That's fine, but changing sales tax doesn't change those things.

    So, until someone provides real data proving otherwise, I maintain that our sales tax is not regressive.


    Posted Fri, Feb 7, 12:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    Assume someone makes $30K - that's about what you would get if you worked full time on $15/hour.

    I have a better idea. Assume the US Census data are correct:

    "The bottom 20 percent of Seattle households subsist on a paltry $13,000 a year, while the top 5 percent earn an average of $423,000. That makes us the 'fifth most affluent' city in America."


    Forget somebody making $30K every year . . . many, many households don't have steady income anywhere near that level, especially not year after year after year after year.

    Now, also assume that the following study about the relative taxing burdens in each of the fifty states is correct:

    ( http://www.itep.org/whopays/ ).

    That shows the state legislature here has created a state/local taxing structure that is more regressive than anywhere else in the US. The state legislators "won" the race to the bottom of the states on that score.

    Your premise – that the taxing structure here is not regressive – is manure.

    Everyone gets what sales taxes (and car tab taxes for that matter) are, right? As a practical matter they are taxes on being poor:


    That blog entry centers for the most part on the regressive taxing structure in the south, but it’s as bad or worse here. The deep south and we have identical – and extremely illiberal – policies about taxing.

    In sharp contrast, the state legislators here do not tax the wealthy or profitable corporations nearly enough, in comparison to how all the other states' legislatures do it:


    That's yet another “race to the bottom” that our state legislators won.

    What those rankings demonstrate is the democrats, who have controlled taxing policies in this state for over a generation, are the Party of Tax the Poor, the Disabled, the Elderly on Fixed Incomes, and Young Families of Modest Means. It's worse here for all those groups than anywhere else in the country.


    Posted Fri, Feb 7, 5:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ah, that's exactly the report I read sometime back (this might be an updated version). Anyway, it does not single out sales tax. It combines it with who-knows-what. Probably includes the effect of B&O; on purchases.

    It's completely clear they have done this as they cite those making under $20K to be paying 13% in sales & excise taxes and ***only*** 4.1% for actual sales tax (still seems too high to me).

    In my post, I'm specifically addressing income tax. Why? Because people are clamoring for a "less regressive" tax. However, unless you address all the taxes included in ITEP's "sales and excise taxes", any changes could aggravate the situation, not improve it.

    That said, I'm not opposed to swapping an income tax for sales tax. However, it needs to be done for the right reasons. Reducing the burden on the poor is almost insignificant - unless you address more than just sales tax.


    Posted Fri, Feb 7, 5:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    That said, I'm not opposed to swapping an income tax for sales tax. However, it needs to be done for the right reasons. Reducing the burden on the poor is almost insignificant

    But it would NOT be insignificant for the demographic cohorts targeted for the heaviest financial impacts by years of heavy regressive taxes. Those cohorts include the disabled, the underemployed, and young families with a couple of kids in the second and third lowest quintiles of wealth. The additional spending power they would have over the years would be significant, and it would help their lives.


    Posted Fri, Feb 7, 6:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    crossrip: are you sure? Let's say you cut the sales tax in half. Then, according to ITEP, there would be a savings of 1.5% to 2% of gross income. If, at the same time, you add an income tax, the people in the group you target could very possibly be hit with 2% or more income tax. Net gain? Negative.

    As I said, if we address sales tax alone, we aren't really doing anything. We need to address the whole collection of regressive taxes. I'm pretty sure you agree.


    Posted Sat, Feb 8, 7:16 a.m. Inappropriate

    The only income tax anyone in this thread is talking about is one that would target profitable businesses for the most part. Moreover, it only would apply to the wealthiest households, say the top 15% here. That kind of income tax would be indexed to inflation so it would remain only a very high-earners' tax.


    Posted Sat, Feb 8, 7:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    crossrip - an income tax as you cite would help. But only a tiny amount. At best (and that's if sales tax were completely revoked), the poor would see a tax reduction of about 4% of their income.

    Like I said, we need a broader reach. Sales tax is getting too much of the blame.


    Posted Fri, Feb 7, 2:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    Responding to Crossrip (Feb 6): I can't comment on how Washington's tax was formed; I was across the border to the South in the 1970s. Oregon's income tax dates to 1930, however, and that dates says something about why it was adopted. In the 1973 tax vote, McCall's popularity was at its peak--or nearing its peak--and that status kept the vote as close as it was, losing only 3-2. Also, he worked with a Democratic legislature, and after a Republican effort to enact a sales tax went down 8-1. McCall was a Republican, but really a maverick independent, and he always had stronger support from Democrats and Republicans, even in the days when Oregon had a lot of very progressive Republican legislators. Kitzhaber will likely have Democratic control in both houses when/if he proposes tax reform. If a sales tax is part of a package, it will need to substantially lower property taxes to have any chance of approval. Republicans in Oregon, as elsewhere, have historically preferred a sales tax, but in the present climate they are often simply opposed to any tax, captive of the Tim Eymans of the world. So counting on then to approve any tax reform that means a net increase in any tax is difficult at best. Stay tuned.

    Posted Fri, Feb 7, 5:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    Oh don't be shy, Floyd McKay. You've been in Washington for decades and you were a journalism professor at WWU. You must have good ideas about why Oregon's legislature was willing to push for the nation's most progressive taxing structure while right across the Columbia our state's legislators have been busy setting in to place the most regressive state/local taxing system in the country. That's a stark contrast you must be able to explain.

    Republicans in Oregon, as elsewhere, have historically preferred a sales tax

    Exactly. Moreover, the only reason every other state legislature has checked that impetus to the point that we have the highest sales taxes of any region in the country is that democrats elsewhere recognize high regressive taxes are abusive.

    As a journalist with decades of experience you know full well that elsewhere in the country democrats are liberal. They try to level the playing field and work for social justice. That's essentially what “liberal” means. Here though the democrats want to increase the wealth gap between the rich and the poor by using nasty taxation policies, especially when it comes to transit.

    Again, you must have ideas about why the democrats here act as they do, unlike elsewhere in the country.

    The only democrats that flourish in Washington State are those that loathe the notion of progressive taxing. Look at Ed Murray's record in the state legislature – all he did was push for legislation making the tax impacts on the less-well-off worse, and he never advocated for progressive taxing strategies. That's the exact opposite of how democrats in Oregon behave.

    Take transit financing. No regressive taxes are used in the three-county region around Portland by its bus and train services provider TriMet. The democratic party leaders and their functionaries now in power in this state though always push for higher sales taxes and car tab taxes for local transit taxing districts, and then work hard to impose them. Those are the singular accomplishments of Frank Chopp, Ed Murray, Greg Nickels, Dow Constantine, Larry Phillips, etc. Constantine and Phillips now are pushing for higher sales taxes and car tab taxes for Metro, instead of questioning the management of Metro, explaining why additional tax revenue might be needed, or advocating for a revenue-raiser not designed to hit the families with the least the hardest.

    Look at how “tax the people with the least the heaviest” is the unvarying theme of the Washington democrats. King County Metro’s high taxing targeting the middle class and poor dates from its first sales tax in 1972. Then Metro doubled its sales tax in 1980. Then the democrats around here really started going to town. They controlled King County and hiked its sales taxes again for Metro in 2000, and then again in 2006. In 2011 the democrats began collecting an additional car tab tax. That completely unaccountable municipality Sound Transit was designed and operated by democrats. It got a big sales tax and car tab tax from the democrats in the state legislature in 1992, and the local democrats began imposing those with gusto. Another unaccountable local taxing district (the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority) was created and authorized to impose heavy car tab taxes. It did that for over three years, and completely wasted all that tax revenue. Now the people here are taxed heavily for transit -- a 1.8% sales tax, plus car tab taxes, plus a property tax.

    That's far more regressive taxing, and higher overall taxing, compared with everywhere else in the country.

    Seattle used to impose a modest payroll tax a few years back, and then the city council repealed that progressive tax. What did it replace it with? You guessed it, a TBD car tab fee the democrats in the state legislature just had handed it.

    What do Dow and Larry want, really badly, at this point? A more regressive taxing structure. What does their party's leadership want after that? Yet more regressive taxing authority from the state legislature for Sound Transit. Then Ed Murray will push for “city-only” regressive taxes on top of that for more light rail.

    You note that Republicans prefer sales taxes. Can't you see the disconnect? In this state it's the democrats that incessantly push and impose high regressive taxes. It'd be great if you'd explain why that mindset prevails among democrats in control in Olympia and the ones that always call the shots at the King County Courthouse.


    Posted Fri, Feb 7, 6:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    We have the taxation system we voted for. Regressive or progressive aren't really that important, the voters continue to return people who support the status quo. Every so often a stray is elected but their effect is short lived and of no consequence.

    Arguing about changing the current system has been on going for decades and will continue for decades more. This constant drone gives each side a chance to pound their chest and spout, knowing that change is never going to happen to their satisfaction. It's America, the land of loud opinions and voters comfortable without the hassle of change in their everyday routine.

    I found something to agree and disagree with, from each of the prior posters. That's the trouble. There's no clearly defined better system that addresses everybody's concerns. It's a all or none game and Washingtonians aren't going to play that game.


    Posted Sat, Feb 8, 7:30 a.m. Inappropriate

    We have the taxation system we voted for.

    Stop lying. Nobody likes lies.

    The people here do not want what we have: the most regressive taxing structure in the country.

    When did the public vote for the 6.5% state sales tax? Oh yeah, never. When did the public vote for the 1% county/city sales tax? Oh yeah, never. When was the public given a choice to approve at any ballot a progressive transit tax? Oh yeah, never.

    The government heads that long have been in power in this neck of the woods – the democrats – are a different story though. They always select and push relentlessly for higher and higher sales taxes and car tab taxes.

    There's no clearly defined better system that addresses everybody's concerns.

    "Addressing everybody's concerns" never is the goal of any taxing structure. The problem with the state/local taxing structure here is that it is worse than anywhere else in the country. It is the worst because the goals of the government heads setting the taxation policies in to place are 1) increasing the gap between the haves and the have nots, and 2) subjecting the least well off individuals and households here to lifetimes of the heaviest financial impacts from taxing in the country. The taxing structure here IS the worst in the country in those terms.


    Posted Sat, Feb 8, 12:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    Silly Rabbit, of course they did, voters continue to send morons to Olympia. Cry all you want but until the membership of the legislature changes we'll have the same system.

    They only liars are those who deny that the general population, i.e. the voters, are responsible, because it's they who decide the make up of the legislature. Legislators are acting at the behest of the citizens while in Olympia, that's why we elected them, to act on our behalf. So when the legislature prompts and votes on tax legislation and the governor (another elected official) signs it into law. It happens with our blessings.

    Time for you to grow up and face the facts, your neighbors through their elected officials have boned your precious dreams and flung them into the garbage heap. Welcome to America.


    Posted Sat, Feb 8, 1:08 p.m. Inappropriate

    Legislators are acting at the behest of the citizens while in Olympia

    Heh. The rich special interest groups around here wouldn't be paying tens of millions of dollars a year to fund campaigns and PACs, and pay lobbyists, if state legislators were in Olympia "acting at the behest of" people. That money buys preferential laws for the wealthy.

    Indeed, if the lawmakers in Olympia were not so bent on furthering the agendas of the wealthy we'd have a progressive taxing structure, not the most regressive one in the country.

    Why do you call our state legislators "morons"? Do you think they were fooled into setting legal policies that created the worst state/local taxing structure for the middle class in the US? Rich corporations and individuals here don't call them morons -- in those circles our state legislators are referred to as "enlightened statesmen".


    Posted Mon, Feb 10, 9:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    Would agree that we have the tax structure we voted for. Between the short-sighted votes (the everyone-wants-a-pony, reduced car tabs)and hemming in the way taxes can be voted on, and the dolts we keep sending to Olympia - clearly we WANT a regressive system, or that is the clear message we are sending. User fees and regressive tax system - you asked for it, you got it.


    Posted Mon, Feb 10, 10:12 a.m. Inappropriate

    Would agree that we have the tax structure we voted for.

    Well,*somebody* is willfully ignorant and needs to have the truth repeated . . .. When did the public vote for the 6.5% state sales tax? Oh yeah, never. When did the public vote for the 1% county/city sales tax? Oh yeah, never. When was the public given a choice to approve at any ballot a progressive transit tax? Oh yeah, never.

    People here did not ask for the most regressive taxing system in the country.

    The ballot measures to bring about lower car tab taxes were approved -- those are examples of the public taking political action to lower regressive taxes. Those manifestations of popular will also undercut your incorrect premise.

    Why do you call our state legislators "dolts"? Do you think they were fooled into setting legal policies that created the worst state/local taxing structure for the middle class in the US? Rich corporations and individuals here don't call them dolts -- in those circles our state legislators are referred to as "enlightened statesmen".


    Posted Mon, Feb 10, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yea, yea. We voted so many friggin' Eyeman restrictions that Olympia is in a box and user fees sales tax is the only thing left. Oh yea, we did vote down, resoundingly, an income tax on the higher earners. Not disagreeing that we have a regressive system - but that the pols in Olympia got the message loud and clear. Think anyone with any political sense is going to offer an income tax anytime soon? Extremely doubtful.


    Posted Mon, Feb 10, 11:32 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yea, yea. We voted so many friggin' Eyeman restrictions that Olympia is in a box and user fees sales tax is the only thing left.

    100% false. Nothing would prevent our state's legislature from reducing some regressive taxes and imposing some progressive ones. Moreover, as you know, the flawed initiative for a statewide income tax Bill Gates the elder floated several years back was intentionally defective. That faux effort was meant to be a loser. None of his business associates or social acquaintances want an income tax, so he and his colleagues structured one they knew the public would reject.

    That particular income tax initiative was rejected by voters for very good reasons. For example, plenty of people understood the state legislature would have lowered the kick-in level after two years so it no longer would be just a high-earners tax. Also, that initiative did not target profitable businesses more than individuals.

    Here's the thing -- there are plenty of progressive taxes other than an income tax that the state legislature could adopt.

    Here's one theory: the democrats in charge get off on hiking sales taxes and car tab taxes exclusively because they don't hear objections from lobbyists when they behave that way. Do you think that alone explains why we have the most regressive state/local taxing regime in the country?


    Posted Mon, Feb 10, 11:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    Nothing would prevent our state's legislature from reducing some regressive taxes and imposing some progressive ones.

    ----------Well, I'd say this is a false statement. The pols in Olympia have gotten the message loud and clear. Who do you think is going to step forward and propose a reduction in the sales tax and implementation of an income tax? That's right. NO ONE.


    Posted Tue, Feb 11, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

    Dick Nelson:

    Your efforts here -- putting out a piece about tax reform -- are appreciated.

    It is an exceedingly unpopular topic among the government heads in this state, especially around Seattle. It never is debated in any measured, reasoned way.

    Anyone think they can link to any document or video evidencing a legitimate debate about improving this state's tax structure? Bill Gates the elder's initiative was a designed-to-lose effort; it does not count.

    I can't think of a single government or party head that has stood up and argued for a more balanced, fair to families taxing structure here in the past 25 years. No democrat has done that -- they are all about hiking sales taxes and car tab taxes higher and higher, well beyond the levels deemed ethical and reasonable elsewhere in this country.


    Posted Tue, Feb 11, 10:52 a.m. Inappropriate

    Like I said. We've beat down any reasonable discussion through voter action. With a populace voting as wackos, why would anyone be sane enough to try and have a reasonable discussion. They know the result.


    Posted Tue, Feb 11, 8:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    What’s missing in the article IMO is what would Oregon’s percentages look like if this proposal was enacted. I’d also be curious as to what would it take for Washington state’s tax structure to be approximately what the average state percentages are. I’ve always wondered how would a system be where the sales tax is limited to local purposes, i.e. voter-approved items at the county level, while an income tax was limited to funding state programs and services. Unfortunately, the politicians want an unbridled tax system.

    What I’d like to see as part of any changes, even ones not as difficult as the article describes: Full transparency for all agencies that receive more than $25 million and more than 25% of their funding through public state sources. “Full transparency” means timely audio or video of their meetings; staff reports online that are presented at those meetings (available prior to those meetings); quarterly financial reporting online, including major project status (description and benefits, % of budget, % to completion) and major revenue sources; salaries of top 10% of employees online; cost of benefits package/employee online; organizational structure online (focus on management/staff ratio).

    Then there are school districts, who close to if not shame people into voting for their levies with signs that say “for the kids,” yet as a voter, we know so very little about how they’re spending our money and how well they’re spending it, for so little is publicized. It’s a case of “send us more money” and “trust us to spend it well.”Again, as with the agencies, very little accountability. In the case of the schools, I've observed unpaid school board members being buried in paperwork and hammered by the troika of teachers, parents, and students. There has got to be a better way.


    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 9:02 a.m. Inappropriate

    In Oregon the schools are so flush in rural districts that they now have 4 day school weeks. There's a recipe for success.


    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 4:53 p.m. Inappropriate

    The Oregon schools with 4 day school weeks do not have great test scores. How is that a recipe for success?

    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 8:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ummmm. You need to put your sarcasm detection hat on.


    Posted Fri, Feb 14, 7:43 a.m. Inappropriate

    Compare Oregon's economy to Washington's. If you want to have an economy that performs like Oregon's, by all means, let's start by adopting their tax structure, for one. When we get an economic "cold" , they get pneumonia.


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