Multnomah County voters are changing their minds in droves overthe county income tax they approved last year, and for good reason.Our city government has been in an uncapped spending frenzy foryears and it is time they start using the funds they already havemore responsibly.
As a sign of public displeasure with the new tax, Don McIntire,president of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, had no problemswhatsoever procuring the minimum 15,000 signatures required to geta repeal, in the form of Measure 26-64, back on the ballot for2004.
According to Oregon economists Dr. Randall Pozdena and Dr. EricFruits, “Oregon, in the 1990s, had a spending policy that wasdisciplined by nothing but available revenue.” The fact that thistype of reckless spending could have carried on into the millenniumis a scary thought considering our current economic status might bebetter if we had some sort of savings to fall back on.
When funds are lacking, the K-12 schools are first to getcutbacks, so it is understandable that parents are freaking out.Unfortunately, a large number of people who are stuck with the billare minimum wage workers who can barely afford to pay their rent asit is. In the words of one Portland resident, who was only making$8 per hour in 2003, “The tax came out of left field, I wasn’tprepared for it and it cost me $320, I had to take money out of mysavings just to pay my taxes.”
This is how many residents reacted to the taxes, includingmyself. It seems obvious that the people who are most affected fromthis increase are not the government employees or the rich. Thepeople who suffer are those folks who check your groceries and pouryour coffee. The people who suffer are the single parents who, eachmonth, are forced to choose between food and rent. We are thepeople who suffer: working college students who are going furtherand further into debt with every year of rising tuition costs.
What we need, instead of taxes, is a system in which caps areplaced on our legislature that limit what they can spend our moneyon and how much. Proposals have been made in which a limit could beput in place such as one by Oregon House Speaker Karen Minnis,R-Wood Village, who told the Portland Tribune that she “would callthe House into session June 1 to consider a plan that would capgrowth in biennial spending.” However, nothing has come of it sofar and the state Senate has no special session on thecalendar.
This tax was a temporary measure, put into place in hopes thatwithin three years our legislature would have come up with a betterplan to secure more money. But if, after a year, they aren’t evenaware of how much they spend and have no obvious plan in place, howcan we expect them to suddenly get on track in the next twoyears?
We should repeal this measure, not because we don’t want what isbest for our schools, but because we recognize that ourlegislature’s spending habits are out of control. We have to send amessage to our local government that they need to put more effortinto determining how to better budget themselves rather thanbudgeting us.