Don’t End Tax Increase Warnings

In the late 1990s Oregon voters approved measures that require envelopes containing certain property tax measures to be boldly stamped in red with this warning: CONTAINS VOTE ON PROPOSED TAX INCREASE.

Now, public employee unions are asking the legislature to end this practice on the grounds that the ballots themselves contain clear information about proposed tax hikes. What the unions don’t say is that without these bold warnings, many potential voters won’t even open the envelopes to discover what’s in store for them if the measures pass. Unopened envelopes mean fewer potential No votes, which is just what the unions want.

Another argument against the warnings is that they unfairly apply to some tax measures, but aren’t required for others. That’s true. But, rather than end the current warnings, we should print them on envelopes that contain tax increase votes of any kind. The unions won’t like this, but many taxpayers will.

The legislation aimed at killing the warnings is House Bill 3113. It has already had one public hearing that generated little public opposition. Unless more people stand up and oppose it, the bill may become law.

That would end what Jason Williams of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon calls the “common courtesy that we’re about to knock the daylights out of you with a tax increase.”

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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