It Starts With a Quarter

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

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 actual zoo grounds; they will support an existing, off-site research program that has little to do with the zoo. For instance, one recent project was entitled, Field Support for a Guano Harvest Observer in Peru. Now hiring someone to watch people harvest dried seabird dung in South America may have scientific merit, but why should zoo patrons in Oregon be forced to pay for it?

A quarter doesn’t sound like much; it’s roughly a 3% tax on each ticket. But the loss of personal freedom frequently begins with small steps. Remember when the federal income tax was first established in 1913? It had a top rate of 3%, and most wage-earners didn’t pay anything. Now we can only fantasize about such low rates.

Metro has crossed the line with this tax. They should either repeal it, or spend the money through the normal zoo budget where public decision-makers are accountable. Turning tax revenues over to a private organization is clearly a matter of taxation without representation.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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