Tax Reform Vision Goes Up In Smoke

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary:

The Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring was charged with developing a blue print for a state and local government tax system. But Portland pollster Adam Davis has shown that public negativity on government and politics is now higher than it has been in 30 years. Oregon voters do not trust government or politicians to get things right.

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Tough Times Call for Smart Spending

Cascade Commentary

Summary

Oregon state revenues are now projected to be $1 billion short of paying for existing services in the next biennial budget, and the economic downturn is putting pressure on all levels of government. The State Legislature will be faced with the challenge of satisfying unlimited demands with limited resources. Smart Spending, rather than new taxes, will be one step on the path out of our current crisis.

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Keep “Double Majority” Voting Rule in Place

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Critics of Oregon’s so-called “double majority” rule say it isn’t democratic because a simple majority of those voting may not be able to pass a tax measure. But in reality, just 25% of registered voters can raise taxes under “double-majority.” “Double majority” is a sensible taxpayer safeguard that should be kept, and even strengthened.

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How Much Does State Government Cost Each Oregonian?

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

Ask even reasonably knowledgeable people how big the Oregon state budget is this biennium, and they likely will tell you that it’s around $15 billion, which is actually just the General Fund. The All Funds Budget is $48 billion—$6,376 per year for every man, woman and child in Oregon. Taxpayers deserve to know exactly how much their government is spending.

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Parking Space Tax Fails the Transparency Test

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary

Summary

The governor’s Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring recently discussed imposing a tax on commercial parking spaces to raise revenue for Oregon’s highway transportation system. The argument was made that businesses, not consumers, would pay; but ultimately this is yet another hidden tax that likely will be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. If we want to tax shoppers, then we should tax them openly and not make business our hidden tax collector.

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Will taxing smokers make kids healthy?

Steve BucksteinGovernor Kulongoski wants the state to offer free or highly subsidized health insurance to all uninsured kids in Oregon by significantly increasing the cigarette tax. His “Health Kids Program” passed out of a House committee on a party line vote Friday and now goes to the Revenue Committee.

This, despite my testimony* listing several problems with the concept, including the concern that we would be taxing a group that has less income, less education, less employment and less health insurance than the average Oregonian.

Of course, smokers are also a relatively powerless minority, so they’re an easy target for those wanting to impose the next step in their vision of universal health insurance. We’ll have to see how this morality play plays out.

*Listen to the entire hearing. My testimony begins at 26:30.

Tobacco Revenues Prove Addictive

Oregon Economic Opportunity Project

Preface

In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act, taxing every sheet of printed paper used in the American colonies. The proceeds were to be used to help pay the rising cost of stationing thousands of British troops on the Appalachian frontier to defend the colonies. Many colonists found this tax to be outrageous not because of its economic cost (which was small), but because it was explicitly being used by England to raise revenues without the approval of the colonies. The resulting opposition to the Stamp Act was so great that a year later, the tax was repealed.

Like the Stamp Act, revenues from Oregon’s cigarette tax

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