Can Oregonians quit kicking themselves?

We like tax surpluses where we can see 'em: In the mailbox
We like tax surpluses where we can see 'em: In the mailbox

Here in Oregon, we taxpayers look forward to something called the "kicker tax" refund. We get these nice little checks in the mail in years when the state wallet ends up stuffed with at least 2 per cent more dough than the last revenue forecast predicted. This sounds like a great idea: A check on state spending and a chance to get a flat-screen TV, all in one constitutional blurb.

The problem is that the kicker checks (which in 2007 averaged $100 to $1,000 for regular folks and cost a pile just to process and mail) usually arrive about four minutes before we get the news that the school year needs to be shortened or dental clinics for uninsured families are going dark. Call me a whiner, but there's something really annoying about that.

Some lawmakers are now boldly going where no mere politician will go. As Harry Esteve of the Oregonian, reports: A bipartisan posse has put forward a bill that would move surplus monies into a rainy-day account, not taxpayers' pockets. If it flies, it goes to a vote of the people.

Esteve is one of the best journalists going, and has that rare ability to make a story about taxes actually highly readable. This one is a good primer on the wacky kicker tax — helpful for newcomers who can't quite believe this thing exists — as well as excellent coverage of this latest legislative effort.

Sometimes just reporting the facts is better than all the editorial-page rants put together:

Efforts to change the state's unique-in-the-nation kicker law face intense opposition from anti-tax groups who see the law as one of the few checks on state spending...

The kicker debate comes during economic upheaval for Oregon, which has seen revenue projections plummet by billions of dollars in recent months. Less than an hour after Tuesday's announcement, the Senate approved a bill to fill an $855 million hole in the current state budget by spending federal stimulus money, shifting money from state agencies and trimming tens of millions of dollars from state services.

In other words, we might need to start — just start — thinking about giving up our "Kick me — I live in Oregon" t-shirts.


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