Taking the Wider View on Tax Increases

Beware the common wisdom about who might support and who might oppose the new taxes proposed in Measures 66 and 67.

When asked to make the “No new taxes” case to the board of directors of a Portland-based non-profit that provides services to disabled Oregonians, I was skeptical that anything I could say would cause them to oppose the measures. After all, they are funded in large part by government grants; and the people for whom they advocate are often dependent on government programs, some of which might be threatened if the new taxes are defeated.

Given only five minutes to make my case, I explained how these new taxes won’t just fall on the rich and on businesses, but they likely will cause 70,000 Oregonians either to lose their jobs or not to find jobs in the future. I also explained how businesses really don’t pay taxes. Businesses pass the tax burden on, usually to customers and employees.

Before I spoke, a representative of a state public employees union made the “Yes on new taxes” case. She emphasized which services to the disabled might be cut if the taxes are not approved.

The board members listened politely to both arguments before dismissing us so they could deliberate in private. The next day I learned that the board had decided to oppose the new taxes.*

It’s nice to know that even those who represent the beneficiaries of government programs are able to take the wider view and oppose taxes that will end up hurting most Oregonians.

*Correction 12/14/2009:  Apparently I misunderstood what I was verbally told about the vote.  While some members of the board did want to oppose the tax measures, others wanted to support them. The board then voted to neither support nor oppose the measures, and they will likely not publicize that decision. Unless they choose to make that decision public, I will not reveal the name of the organization.

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