Reject transferring billions of dollars from the private to the public sector:What’s wrong with SJR 29
March 3, 2009
As a member of the Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring representing taxpayers, I must express reservations about Senate Joint Resolution 29 which seeks to amend the Oregon Constitution to, among other things, direct income tax kicker money into the Rainy Day Fund.
I agree with the Task Force consensus that establishing more reliable forecasting and more prudent budgeting is a worthy goal. I do not agree, however, that the state is the best repository for ending balances under the new forecasting method. That money rightfully belongs to the individuals and corporations who earned it. (more…)
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. (more…)
At the cost of $819 billion, the current House version of the Obama Stimulus Plan is more than twice as costly as the much-reviled Iraq War to date. Passage of a stimulus plan, according to President Obama, is an urgently needed and critical step to a rapid recovery. In fact, as I argue here, the Plan is simply a standard-issue spending program masquerading as stabilization policy, and unlikely to provide useful stimulus.
Why Fiscal Policy Doesn’t Work
If Nobel-laureate economist Milton Friedman were still alive today, he would be shaking his head in dismay at the current version of Stimulus Plan. Dr. Friedman, whom I had the pleasure of knowing, was a strong skeptic of the usefulness of fiscal policy as an economic stabilization tool. Fiscal policy (the use of changes in government spending or tax revenue collection to influence the economy) has both fatal theoretical flaws and weak empirical justification. (more…)
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Once again, Oregon has been cut off from Washington, due to flooding in Centralia that closed I-5 by January 8. The loss of commerce for each day the highway remains closed is estimated to be in excess of $4 million. In the December 2007 flood, property damage alone in that area exceeded $1 billion. (more…)
Metro wants to spend over 200 million dollars building a Convention Center hotel in Portland, a project that cannot possibly be financially sound over the lifetime of the hotel. Metro and the City of Portland should reject this proposal. (more…)
With Oregon facing a $1-billion-and-counting budget deficit, the temptation exists for legislators to close the budget gap with tax increases. Before any conversation about raising taxes occurs, however, state officials should first agree to a set of guiding principles of taxation. (more…)
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. (more…)
The financial liabilities of social insurance programs in the United States in the near future are staggering, but the Wall Street meltdown has many Americans worried about “private” solutions. Around the world, other countries are replacing traditional pay-as-you-go schemes with hybrid arrangements of government social insurance programs and individual-based accounts, which may be a workable solution to the crisis. (more…)
Looking for more tax revenue wherever they can find it, some legislators and special interest groups want to raise Oregon’s corporate income tax. But raising corporate taxes will have hidden, yet very real, detrimental effects, especially on Oregon’s poor.
Demographically benchmarking Oregon spending goes an important step beyond simply making government spending transparent. Without knowing how our spending compares to demographically similar states, we cannot even begin to answer the question “does Oregon spend too much?” (more…)
This study updates past research to benchmark Oregon’s spending (Pozdena and Fruits 2004). Revenue and expenditure data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s census of state and local governments for 2004–05 (Tables 1 and 2). Demographic data are from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (more…)
A recent report published by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis discusses the importance of state-level asset-building coalitions in triggering public policies that support greater asset-building opportunities for people of all incomes.
Such coalitions call for diverse representation from around the state and inclusion of (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
In a world where taxes are used to finance government, possibilities for revenue include sales taxes, flat taxes and others. But among the many competing options, some are decidedly worse than others. The capital gains tax is one of the worst sources of revenue, since it taxes the very tool used ultimately to create higher wages for workers and increased standards of living. (more…)
A recent study of public sector retirement funds by The Pew Charitable Trust’s Center on the States found that “Oregon currently has the best-funded pension system in the country.” This claim for Oregon’s $50-plus billion system is only technically true if we leave out the liabilities generated by $6.2 billion in pension obligation bonds issued to help reduce PERS rates. (more…)
The collapse of the I-35 Bridge and loss of life in Minneapolis is a tragedy that prompts Oregonians to ask, could such a tragedy happen here, and how can we reduce our risk?
The first widespread reaction is to demand that our state and federal legislators appropriate more money for bridges and roads. Oregonians should think twice. Federal, state and local transportation appropriation processes regularly produce pork barrel spending (read about pork in the 2005 Federal Highway bill) and wasteful projects like the (more…)
Oregon has recently passed a new law (Senate Bill 118) in an attempt to prohibit so-called “price-gouging” after an emergency or natural disaster. Although the purpose of the bill is to protect Oregonians from being charged excessive prices after an emergency, the new law likely will make a bad situation worse.
The market has a built-in mechanism to ensure that goods are directed to where they are most needed. When a natural disaster or emergency occurs, demand for essential goods immediately (more…)
The Oregonian’s front page feature on lobbyist Mark Nelson is a revealing insight into the views of a man the paper calls “the most powerful man in government whom you’ve never met.”
Nelson works for a number of powerful clients. Among other battles this legislative session, he’s trying to keep cigarette and beer taxes from rising, and he’s fighting caps on consumer loans.
His opponents couch their arguments in terms of (more…)
Funding for the Oregon State Police has been so scarce in recent years that most parts of the state have no troopers on duty during entire eight-hour shifts. The 665 troopers we had in 1979 have fallen to just 285 today.
The state police are struggling because we’ve expanded the scope of government far beyond anything contemplated when our state was formed, and far beyond what is healthy for our citizens. Now, less than two percent of the entire (more…)
- Electronic waste is a challenge, not a crisis.
- Disposing of e-waste in a regulated landfill is not a negative externality; the costs are fully internalized into the price of disposal. Moreover, many garbage ratepayers are forced to pay for other social programs that have nothing to do with waste disposal, so they create positive externalities. Examples: Metro tipping fees, Portland OSD financing.
- The bill purports to impose personal responsibility for the eventual disposal of consumer products, but in fact does just the opposite. It places cost burden on manufacture to create another free entitlement.
Virtually everyone agrees that the state of Oregon needs a rainy day fund; they just disagree on how to finance it. Last year voters rejected a rainy day fund coupled with a state spending limit. Now, even though state general fund revenue is expected to be 20 percent higher than last biennium, legislative leaders want corporations to give up this year’s kicker refund to build the fund.
Major business groups endorsed that idea, but the increase in the corporate minimum tax that comes along with it is causing (more…)
- The primary effect of Oregon’s land-use regulatory system (especially the use of UGBs and rural downzoning) is to create various real estate cartels. By making buildable land scarce where it would otherwise be plentiful, land-use regulation drives up land prices far above market value.
- The number of claims filed under M 37 indicates a vast, pent-up demand for alternative uses to land in Oregon. This demonstrates what should have been obvious decades ago, namely that Oregon planners are not prescient enough to know which uses should go where.
Preserving Farmland Without Farmers
Since 1969, Oregon has pursued a stated policy objective of preserving farmland. Oregonians have paid dearly for this commitment. Rural landowners have lost important property rights and seen their land values plummet as a result. Housing costs are unnecessarily high across the state due to the artificially high prices for developed and buildable land.
The state has endured three decades of fierce battles over (more…)
Governor 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.
After spending the first sixteen years of its existence located in downtown Portland, Cascade Policy Institute has moved not only out of downtown, but several blocks outside the city limits to an office building in Raleigh Hills. The reasons for our move mirror those given by much older establishments.
The Rogoway family recently moved its jewelry store out of downtown after being there for 110 years. (more…)
One result of last week’s election is that we may finally achieve tax simplification in this country. An old joke on this subject goes like this: Did you hear about the new federal income tax proposal? It’s a two-line form to replace the 1040. The first line reads, “How much did you earn last year?” The second line reads, “Send it in.”
With the new Democrat majority in Congress vowing to repeal the Bush tax cuts, and Democrats in Oregon looking for ways to raise revenue, it’s time to remember what effect taxes have on the economy. (more…)
Federal tax credits for hybrid-electric vehicles manufactured by Toyota will be cut in half this weekend, because Toyota has reached the ceiling of 60,000 subsidized vehicles that Congress established in 2005. The tax credit for the popular Prius will drop from $3,150 to $1,575, and in April 2007 the credit will be halved again to $787. After October of next year, no federal tax credits will be available for the Prius, though they will likely still be available for other brands such as Ford or Chevrolet.
This is a welcome phase-out of wasteful subsidy. (more…)
Metro recently decided to impose a $0.25 tax on all Oregon zoo admissions, beginning January 1. The money will be turned over to a private organization, the Zoo Foundation, to spend on wildlife conservation projects. The tax is estimated to cost zoo-goers $102,000 next year.
These tax revenues will not be spent on the (more…)
Oregon state and local governments levy over $268 million a year in lodging taxes, supposedly to benefit tourism and economic development. The unseen costs of such taxes, which include deterring tourists from visiting high-tax areas, and the arguable unconstitutionality of such “forced speech” levies should be reasons enough to repeal them. Private businesses and tourism organizations have great incentives to promote tourism themselves, and they will likely do a better job than government agencies if allowed to do so. (more…)
Last November state economists estimated that Oregon’s tax revenues could exceed their projections by $300 million this biennium. Now that estimate has surged to over $1 billion, and the debate over the state’s “kicker law” has grown louder.
The kicker law states that whenever personal or corporate income tax collections are (more…)
The State of Oregon sued tobacco companies this week to recover more money under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). That agreement, signed by Oregon and 45 other states, requires the four largest tobacco companies to pay specified amounts each year to the settling states, ostensibly as reimbursement for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses.
However, each state is free to (more…)
Last Wednesday the Bush administration announced new fuel economy standards for light trucks and SUVs. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta asserted that the new regulations, which will affect vehicles sold from 2008 to 2011, will save 10.7 billion gallons of fuel during those years by mandating greater vehicle efficiency.
But this projection ignores the fact that (more…)
A new task force has been appointed to review Oregon’s statewide land-use planning program. This is the first opportunity in 33 years for citizens to address basic concerns about planning, zoning and property rights.
One of the first questions the task force should ask (more…)
Now that Oregon’s economy is finally showing signs of life, we are again hearing arguments against the so-called “kicker law.” The law states that whenever personal or corporate income tax collections are more than 2 percent higher than state economists project, the excesses are rebated to taxpayers.
Those who think government can (more…)
Two years ago my family began making our own homemade diesel out of used fryer grease. Now we are watching with interest as the biodiesel movement gains momentum in the Pacific Northwest.
Seed crushing and biodiesel processing plants are opening or planned in multiple Northwest cities and bills to advance the alterative fuel have been hot items in state legislatures and Congress. Legislation has focused primarily on financial incentives and use mandates.
While well-intentioned, policy-makers are on the wrong track (more…)
Last year, Inc. magazine rated Portland the nation’s eighth worst metro area in which to do business. It also said that Portland has lost its sizzle as one of the “cities of the future.”
Critics are complaining that corporations pay less than their fare share of taxes in Oregon. They note that business sector taxes accounted for 14 percent of state revenue in 1980, but will only be 4 percent by the end of this decade due to tax law changes.
What the critics fail to understand is that (more…)
As the debate over Social Security reform heats up, one area of disagreement is whether younger workers should be allowed to voluntarily divert a portion of their payroll taxes into their own personal retirement accounts.
Critics argue that such accounts are too risky; that Social Security should be a sure thing. Advocates explain that Social Security carries its own (more…)
Not too many years ago, the Public Broadcasting Service asked this provocative question: “If PBS doesn’t do it, who will?” Now, with the explosion of cable and satellite programming, that question has been answered. The History Channel, Biography, C-Span, A&E, National Geographic, the Learning Channel and many other outlets offer the kinds of cultural, news, and educational programming once thought to be the exclusive territory of public broadcasting.
As alternatives have proliferated, government (more…)
This report updates and expands on a previous Cascade Policy Institute report by Dr. Pozdena. The purpose of this report is to compare Oregon’s state and local spending level against that of other states through benchmarking.
Benchmarking helps Oregon citizens understand the extent to which their state’s spending choices differ from those of other states. Since individual states vary widely in both their ability to pay for public services and in population characteristics that determine the demand for spending, simple ratio comparisons are insufficient to fairly benchmark individual states. (more…)
In 2003, Portland and Multnomah County politicians cried crisis and pushed a new three-year “temporary” county income tax, mainly to benefit education. This November, county voters, most of them city residents, will have the opportunity to recall the remaining two years of the income tax. The free-spending politicians who cried crisis have given voters good reasons to do so.
In 2003, the county hired a new (more…)
Public health nannies complain that the defeat of Measure 30 reduced Oregon’s tobacco tax by ten cents per pack. They argue that higher taxation on tobacco leads to less smoking and also funds smoking cessation programs.
There’s little evidence to support either assertion. When consumers are taxed too much, they simply buy from lower-cost outlets, either on the Internet or from Native American retailers who don’t pay taxes. This actually (more…)
Various groups are organizing tax reform meetings throughout the state. The big question: How do we “fix” Oregon’s tax system. In reality, the goal is more like: How do we increase taxes?
Let’s assume the best of intentions — momentarily. Common sense tells us, before we start fixing something we should have (more…)
Some folks are pushing higher taxes in Oregon as a way to strengthen the economy. A January 5 Oregonian editorial exemplifies this argument; it concluded, “the small [about $1 billion] tax increase is much better for the Oregon economy than big reductions in spending.”
Well, if a small tax increase is good for the economy, the state government should (more…)
Oregonians will soon vote on the legislature’s $1 billion tax package. Because this added revenue will translate into more government spending, it makes sense to see just how Oregon compares to other states in the spending arena.
Union workers in Patient Business Services at Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) recently faced a challenge. Their work — billing and collections — was being put up for competitive bidding.
With the help of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 328, the workers (more…)
Watershed events often become dividing lines in history. Twenty-five years ago, Californians created such a line when they voted to reduce their property tax burden through Proposition 13. Thirteen years ago, Oregonians drew a similar line when they voted for Measure 5 to reduce their property tax burden.
Mythology surrounds such events, and Measure 5 is no exception. (more…)
Competitive bidding has been successfully employed around the world to help reduce the cost of government services and improve their quality. Competitive bidding could help reduce government payroll costs.
Jerry Yudelson wrote about this idea many years ago in The Daily Journal of Commerce. He developed the idea while (more…)
What do you think about the recent politician-approved three-year “temporary” state income tax increase? Regardless of your answer, you’ll likely get the chance to speak your mind at the polls.
Citizens for a Sound Economy-Oregon and the Taxpayers Association of Oregon are working to place (more…)
The Statesman Journal has a counter on its website tallying the taxpayer burden of our legislators’ budgetary gridlock. With each day the Legislature is in session the cost continues to rise. Currently the cost is nearing $4.6 million. This is a staggering sum, but the true fiscal damage results from how much legislators continue to spend.
The mass exodus of Oregon public employees—due to pending changes in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS)—has become a news diet staple. The August 4 Oregonian headline was typical: “PERS changes cause bailout.” The story featured several long-time public employees who are reluctantly retiring in their mid-50s so they can collect their pensions before legislatively mandated changes take effect that would reduce their benefits.
For employees who had planned to work into their 60s, early retirement is (more…)
Why should doing something that is legal today land you in jail tomorrow? It shouldn’t, and the framers of our U.S. Constitution made that abundantly clear.
Article 1 Section 9 reads, “No … ex post facto Law shall be passed” by Congress; Article 1 Section 10 declares, “No State shall … pass … any ex post facto Law …” The Oregon Constitution Section 21 concurs, “No ex post facto law … shall ever be passed …” There can be little doubt that (more…)
Multnomah County voters just approved Oregon’s only local income tax, primarily to help schools. The 1.25 percent three-year tax is on top of Oregon’s already high 9 percent state income tax. Voters clearly value education, but this new money will largely benefit the teachers’ union, not the students. Rather than help the schools in a positive way, the new tax will allow the school system to avoid doing two things it must eventually do: control spending and become accountable for learning outcomes.
First, supporters of the new tax failed to recognize (more…)
As Multnomah County voters make up their minds about the new county income tax measure, newspapers are printing letters to the editor pro and con. One misguided writer said he’s voting no because only people will be taxed, not corporations.
Close on the heels of Measure 28’s failure Portland and Multnomah County officials have started dreaming of more creative ways to tax people, rather than live within the means of taxpayers. Specifics about the new taxes are hard to come by. There is no consensus on whom to tax or what to tax.
Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito has proposed that (more…)
Oregon legislators are eager to review existing tax breaks. The thinking is, some breaks may have outlived their usefulness.
A state representative questioned, “Are there things on the books that could be limited or eliminated to find revenue to apply to other tax credits?” He noted that perhaps the legislature could (more…)
The Oregon Road User Fee Task Force recently became the object of scorn by media pundits. Why? Because the Task Force recommended that Oregon test a Global Positioning Satellite-based system to collect tolls from motorists, using volunteer car fleets for the initial research.
Oregon roads are paid for primarily through a (more…)
Oregonians have nixed a sales tax nine times at the ballot box, yet at the December 9th Oregon Leadership Summit in Portland some business and political leaders were getting ready to try again. They proposed reducing state income taxes in return for a new sales tax.
Governor-elect Kulongoski and other leaders said (more…)
During the last session Oregon legislators created the current budget shortfall. They added new programs and spent more on existing programs than forecasts showed the state would have revenue to support. This irresponsibility has led to the January election on a temporary three-year income tax increase.
The legislature’s irresponsibility is a red flag about a (more…)
Portland’s Mayor Katz and Commissioner Sten are spending a half-million dollars to study the city’s rights to acquire most of PGE’s assets, possibly through condemnation. The idea of a government takeover of PGE should die a quick death.
Here’s the most obvious question. A sour economy has pushed commissioners to seek (more…)
In June of 1993 Cascade Policy Institute published the report Seven Principles of State Budget Reform. Ironically the opening sentence asked, “Why is there another fiscal crisis in Oregon?”
The current so-called budget crisis is not an accident: It was created by the (more…)
The stock market has plunged over the last two years. Recent corporate accounting scandals have shaken the public’s trust in big companies and their management. Is now the time to revisit privatizing Social Security? You bet it is. In fact, if you’re going to start investing in the market, wouldn’t you prefer to start when the Dow is 8,700, rather than 10,000?
Over long periods of time, market rates of return have (more…)
Low voter turnout in the recent Oregon primary election helped block numerous tax measures throughout the state. For that reason, some people wish to eliminate the 50 percent turnout requirement, which is simply a quorum rule.
To pass certain tax measures during a primary election, 50 percent plus one of those casting ballots must (more…)
When U.S. Drug Czar John Walters spoke in Portland last Friday he touched on the theme of his administration’s ad campaign: that if you use illegal drugs you’re helping to finance terrorism. He could have more accurately said that if you prohibit the sale of drugs, or raise cigarette taxes to abnormally high levels, you’re helping to finance terrorism.
We can ban products, but (more…)
Gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton deserves praise for making the state’s financially insolvent Public Employees Retirement System a campaign issue. The fact that PERS threatens to bankrupt Oregon cities, counties and school districts is not news to elected officials. Previous reforms have left the fundamentally flawed structure of PERS intact, and the mounting debt is getting harder to ignore. Let’s talk real solutions.
Last year Cascade Policy Institute asked one of the (more…)
The collapse of Enron has been grabbing headlines for months. Politicians are on a warpath to get to the bottom of the scandal. Their outrage is justified, but their vigilance shouldn’t end with Enron. Federal, state, and local governments are guilty of egregious fiscal mismanagement-on a much larger scale.
Worried about the lost retirement funds of Enron employees? It pales in comparison to (more…)
The Oregonian‘s four-part story about Oregon’s slowly collapsing highway bridges points to a fundamental problem: we raise lots of revenue through transportation taxes, but there is no requirement that those funds be spent on maintenance.