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Taxing Questions

Pete Springer/OPB

The Oregon House passed bills yesterday that would raise taxes on individuals making over $125,000 a year, and on corporations. You can read all the details about the bills here and here.

The next political step is up in the air. Anti-tax crusader Russ Walker has vowed to fight at least one of the tax increases at the ballot box. And these aren’t the only revenue increasing measures of the year. The beer tax may be dead, but the health care provider tax, part of the mammoth HB 2009, is still alive (although under fire). And a gas tax seems to be on the fast track to passage.

In some ways the issues at stake here aren’t new. On this show alone we’ve touched on them in a  series of shows about revenue (divided up into conversations about the kicker, sales tax, and the corporate minimum tax) and in our recent show about the proposed Ways and Means budget.

Still, they’re too big to ignore. Bill Kennemer, a Republican representative from Oregon City, was quoted by The Oregonian as saying that Democrats are interested in taking from the rich to give to the poor: “It smacks a little of class envy and redistribution.”

Is he right? And is this “redistribution” — a term freighted with 2008 presidential overtones — a good thing, or a bad thing? Are wealthy Oregonians paying their fair share of taxes? Are corporations? How much is too much?

If you personally make more than $125,000 a year, your household pulls in $250,000 annually, or you own a business — how do you feel about the possibility of paying higher taxes?

The most basic question, I think, is this: What does tax “fairness” mean to you?


Well, the “expected passage” in the Senate didn’t happen. We’ll obviously discuss the next political machinations and options in today’s show.


The state Senate has worked out the problems and both tax bills have been approved along party lines. As part of the deal, a separate bill was rewritten to divert a portion of the increased corporate taxes collected to the state’s Rainy Day Fund after four years.

And in a related story, Republicans filed an ethics complaint against two Democratic lawmakers, claiming they violated the public trust by assuring a Republican earmarks for his district. Rep. Greg Smith wanted the promises of support in writing before voting for the income tax bill earlier this week. Reps. Dave Hunt and Peter Buckley agreed to back millions of dollars for projects Smith supported.

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