Voters To Have A Voice About Taxation

SALEM – The Legislature’s tax increase package will go to voters at a special election Feb. 3, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury announced on Wednesday.

Bradbury said a sampling of signatures on referendum petitions showed foes of the tax measure gathered 118,000 valid signatures of registered voters, far more than the 50,000 signatures needed to put the tax increase on the ballot.

The referendum success means the $800 million tax increase package – including a $544 million income tax surcharge – is blocked until voters decide its fate.

Lawmakers passed the tax increases in August, with most Republicans opposed, to balance the 2003-05 state budget and end their record-length session.

Opponents quickly launched the referendum attack, led by Citizens for a Sound Economy, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates lower taxes and less government.

Defeat of the higher taxes would trigger $544 million in automatic cuts in education, social services and public safety spending.

Balancing the budget would require added cuts of about $240 million by the governor as across-the-board reductions or a special legislative session to reduce spending or take other steps to juggle the budget or raise revenue from other sources.

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