Call me old-fashioned, but even though I enjoy Stephen Colbert's humorous take on truthiness, it still seems to me that social policy debates go better when people on both sides of an issue respect the facts.
Such as: Oregon isn't a high tax state, especially for businesses.
It's must-reading for those who want to know the truth about Oregon's business climate -- which is at odds with the anti-tax lies spread by those who opposed a modest increase in the amount of money paid by high-income individuals and some corporations via Measures 66 and 67 (passed by voters earlier this year).
Those who want to knock our business environment selectively focus on tax policies that put us at a disadvantage to other states. Yes, our income tax rate is high and our Kicker is just insane. However, our critics often overlook the fact that we do not have a sales tax or high payroll or gross receipts taxes and as a result our overall business taxes are the lowest in the region.
...We realize that there are those who are angry with the state of affairs in Oregon. We hope, however, that they will consider looking at our problems in context. Trash- talking our own state is not a smart economic development strategy. And it’s not consistent with the facts. A quick look around the West makes one thing abundantly clear: the grass is NOT greener on the other side of the fence.
The report was prepared by a group of Oregon business leaders who, as Oregonian columnist Steve Duin puts it, aren't bothered by paying our low level of taxes.
The CEOs who've put their name on this study are less troubled by state and local business taxes -- which account for less than one percent of their total costs -- than by the tactics some take to avoid paying taxes altogether.
Sure, Oregon has a serious unemployment problem. We need more jobs in this state. But high taxes aren't keeping businesses from coming here, or expanding their Oregon operations. The Greener Pastures study makes that clear.
I've been harping on this point since 2006, when I first blogged (at tax time) "Oregon is not a high tax state." After hearing lies to the contrary on right-wing talk radio, I followed that up with "Once more, with feeling: Oregon is not a high tax state!"
Well, even with that exclamation mark the message hasn't gotten through to fact-phobic conservatives who persist in spreading the falsity that businesses are being drawn to supposedly tax-friendlier neighboring states.
No, says the report, that isn't true. The tax grass is greenest right here in Oregon. (Check out Blue Oregon's post on this subject for another perspective.) The report says:
As members of the Oregon business community, we suggest that our colleagues take a look at the budgetary, economic and tax climate of other Western states before they jump to the conclusion that the situation here is so bad.
The fact is that a lot of people in Washington, Idaho, California, Arizona, and Nevada would gladly trade places with Oregon.
Each state is facing the stresses of the economic downturn by raising taxes or fees and cutting services. Each state has odd but different tax elements that business people don’t like. Each state has advantages that they use to appeal to businesses and problems or disadvantages that they don’t want to mention.
We believe that overall, however, Oregon is doing as well or better than our West Coast peers.