Mannix criticized by both sides in tax debate

SALEM – Oregon Republican Chairman Kevin Mannix, who’s taken a well-publicized stand against the Legislature’s tax hike, drew criticism Tuesday from activists on both sides of the issue.

Libertarian Party officials said Mannix hasn’t done enough to help the anti-tax campaign. Further, they said Mannix has failed to act against GOP lawmakers who joined with Democrats to enact the tax hike.

Later Tuesday, a group of pro-tax advocates from Portland traveled to Salem to accuse Mannix of playing politics with the issue by refusing to immediately release his own alternative to the $800 million tax hike.

Members of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good tried to meet with Mannix at his Salem law office, but were told that Mannix was out of town.

Mannix, through his spokeswoman, later shrugged off the criticism from both camps and said his main goal is to make sure Oregon voters have the final say on the Legislature’s tax package.

Next Tuesday is the deadline for opponents of the tax hike to turn in at least 50,000 valid signatures to force a Feb. 3 special election on the tax.

While the Washington-based group Citizens for a Sound Economy has done most of the work rounding up signatures for the campaign, Mannix has become the most widely quoted opponent of the tax increase.

Top officials of the Libertarian Party of Oregon faulted Mannix and the state GOP for collecting relatively few petition signatures for the tax referral.

And they said that despite the state GOP’s no-new-taxes plank, Mannix hasn’t tried to find challengers to run against the 11 House Republicans who joined with the Democrats to pass the tax.

“Now we have Kevin Mannix jumping in front of a parade that other people have started,” said Richard Burke, the Libertarians’ executive director.

Dawn Phillips, the Oregon Republican Party’s communications director, said Mannix and the GOP have worked hard to come up with “several thousand” signatures for the drive.

She also said Mannix makes no apology for his refusal to “punish” those GOP lawmakers who voted for the tax hike.

“His job is to promote the party and get Republicans elected,” she said.

Meanwhile, members of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good criticized Mannix for his decision to wait until Dec. 8 – after the signature turn-in deadline – to issue his alternative to the tax plan.

Mannix, a former state lawmaker who ran for governor last year, has said he will issue a proposal then spelling out how schools and other key services could be protected from budget cuts if voters reject the tax.

One of the pro-tax activists who traveled to Salem, Valerie Chapman of St. Francis Catholic Church, said Mannix should give that information to voters while they are still deciding whether to sign the tax petitions.

“We believe it is irresponsible and immoral to proceed” with the anti-tax campaign before doing that, she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)