Repeat after me, conservative politicians and right wing talk show hosts: “Oregon is not a high tax state.” Again: “Oregon is not a high tax state.” Good. Now say it on your own. Over and over.
And don’t let me hear you say the opposite this election year, because it isn’t true.
Yesterday I didn’t like writing checks and sending them off to the federal and state governments. But when I licked the envelope that went to the Oregon Department of Revenue it made me feel better to know that Oregon ranks 36th out of the 50 states in state and local taxes as a percent of per capita income.
Check it out. The U.S. average is 10.1%. Oregonians pay 9.6%.
So there’s good reason to argue that we should increase the state income tax to pay for essential services such as schools, prisons, and my own personal favorite, the state police (Remember the days when, if your car broke down, you’d say to yourself “a highway patrolman will be coming along soon.” Those aren’t these days).
The most obvious place to raise taxes is on Oregon corporations, who pay the lowest taxes in the nation. Before we consider a sales tax, let’s see how much money can be raised by having corporations pay their fair share.
The Oregonian editorial board agrees. Unfortunately, they chose the most mystifying possible name for today’s lead editorial that spoke about the need to change the state’s lopsided tax structure: “Oregon Koyaanisqatsi.”
I just spent ten minutes laboring on my own to figure out what Koyaanisqatsi means. I wrote down the letters in reverse order. I toyed with anagrams of political leader names, but couldn’t get Kulongoski, Mannix, Minnis and such to fit together into Koyannisqatsi. Then I tried the obvious: Google, which led me to Wikipedia.
Koyannisqatsi is a little known documentary film with the subtitle, “Life out of balance.” Nice to know that the newspaper assumes that its readers have such highbrow tastes as to be familiar with a movie that has no narration and relies on slow motion and time-lapse photography.
They likely are wrong about that. But the Oregonian got tax policy right:
While it may be hard to imagine Oregonians ever voting to impose a sales tax, even if it could be shown to be revenue-neutral, there are a couple of obvious things the state should do soon. One is to raise the minimum corporate income tax from its easy-sound-bite level of $10. Another would be stop sending tax kicker checks back to corporations.
These modest steps wouldn't solve the state's budget problems. But they would be steps in the right direction -- and they would be good business for Oregon.