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Legislature: Chance to Vent Over Oregon Tax

BY Howard Buck
by Howard Buck on 2/24/01.

OLYMPIA -- It may be little more than a shout into the wind, but Clark County residents angry over paying Oregon income tax have won a chance to vent to Washington legislators.

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the House Finance Committee will hear House Joint Memorial 4010, a simple memorial resolution lacking any teeth south of the Columbia River.

Testimony will be taken in Hearing Room C, in the John L O'Brien Building (House offices).

The measure would formally urge Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and state lawmakers to "ensure fair tax treatment" of Washington residents working there "by reducing the income tax to level commensurate with services received" by those commuters.

So far, no action is planned for a similar memorial aimed at Washington Gov. Gary Locke (HJM 4009), or for House and Senate bills that call for a bi-state commission to explore the issue (House Conference Resolution 4407, Senate Joint Memorial 8008).

Rep. Jim Dunn, R-Cascade Park, is prime-sponsor of HJM 4010, backed by several Southwest Washington lawmakers.

He said he expects testimony Wednesday from local members of Citizens for a
Sound Economy and from Northwest Residents Advocating Fair Taxation, or NWRAFT.

"We're gonna try. We want to keep the issue alive, to let everybody know it's a problem for them," said Dunn.

Gaining broader support will be tough, sponsors admit. Few Washington legislators are aware of the problem, while Oregon has little incentive to address its neighbors' complaint.

"If we get something to leverage; that's what we need," mused Rep. Bill Fromhold, D-Vancouver.

Recent reports show Oregon taxes Washington residents more than $ 100 million annually.

Hazel Dell Republican Don Carlson signed onto SJM 8008, which calls for the bi-state conference, but isn't quite ready to beat the drums, he said Thursday.

"I don't want to encourage Vancouver people, with false hopes," said Carlson. Court rulings have affirmed Oregon's right to tax as it pleases, he added. "We can't control it."