Tax vote looks likely

Opponents of the Oregon Legislature’s $800 million tax increase are confident that they have gathered enough signatures to refer the issue to the voters — and that they will easily defeat it in a Feb. 3 vote-by-mail election.

“The voters are going to speak, and the big tax increase interests had better listen,” Tom Cox, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Oregon, said after tax opponents turned in an estimated 147,000 voter signatures to the Oregon secretary of state’s office Tuesday.

Because only 50,420 valid voter signatures are required to refer the matter to the ballot, even supporters of the increase said next year’s election looked inevitable.

“With that many signatures it’s unrealistic to think they won’t make it, so we’d better get ready for the campaign,” said Morgan Allen of Our Oregon Coalition, a political action committee formed to support the measure.

Lawmakers passed the tax package in August to balance the 2003-05 state budget. Most of the plan’s increase comes from a three-year state income tax surcharge.

The petition drive was led by Citizens for a Sound Economy, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports tax cuts and less government spending. It was supported by the Oregon Republican Party and the Libertarian Party of Oregon.

Defeat of the increase would trigger $544 million in predetermined budget cuts. The governor or Legislature could convene a special session to reconsider the cuts.