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This piece originally appeared in The Oregonian as an op-ed on 01/19/04.
Measure 30 provides Oregonians the chance to say no to the $1.1 billion tax package passed by the Legislature. More than 100,000 Oregonians signed petitions expressing their disapproval of the actions taken by legislators and a governor who has already gone back on his inaugural promise not to raise taxes. When ballots are counted Feb. 3, thousands more will echo this sentiment. Barely one year after the defeat of Measure 28, voters will again attempt to get a message across: Taxes are not the solution to Oregon's economic situation.
Tax advocates say Measure 30 is simply a temporary surcharge on income taxes. Not true. The package is a compilation of seven different taxes, many of them permanent. Measure 30 not only contains income tax increases, it also raises property taxes (sending revenue to state, not county, government), reduces and eliminates seniors' abilities to deduct costly medical expenses and imposes a host of business taxes, ultimately forcing job loss and increasing consumer costs. Legislators did not miss their chance to tax SUV owners and smokers, either.
The tax-and-spend factions of state government would have you believe they need this additional money to provide important state services. What they fail to mention is that between 1989 and 2003 Oregon's general fund budget increased an astonishing 151 percent, faster than any other state. The proposed tax increases would permanently cement wasteful indulgences into Oregon's budget, meaning more expensive government for generations to come.
And now, Gov. Ted Kulongoski is holding state services hostage, trying to force Oregonians to buckle under the pressure and pass these new taxes. He plans to deny legislators the opportunity to go back to Salem and craft a responsible solution to the budget situation. In order to satisfy an insatiable hunger for more tax money, our governor is willing to sacrifice the well-being of Oregon's families and the quality of life that those dependent on state services deserve.
We should be diligent about job creation, economic development and the encouragement of economic activity within the state. Rather than looking at various schemes to take more money from targeted groups of Oregonians, the state should be looking at existing agency fund balances, vacant positions, further PERS reforms and other money already available in the system.
Instead, politicians and special interest groups have asked hard-working men and women to fund the largest tax increase in Oregon's history because they could not make the difficult choices families are faced with every day.
This election is about common sense and fiscal responsibility. It is about government accountability for its actions and use of tax dollars. Most importantly, this election is about government listening to its constituency and representing the citizens who elected them. Oregonians cannot afford new taxes, and they deserve a government willing to protect our economic health.
Russ Walker, chief petitioner for Measure 30 and the director of Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy, is a native Oregonian and Keizer resident.