A minor oversight could turn out to be a major problem for the forces trying to repeal the tax increases passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature last session.
The legislature’s tax measures include an increase in the corporate minimum tax (currently a ridiculous $10, unchanged since 1931) and in the top income tax rates for affluent Oregonians (individuals making over $125,000 a year or households making over $250,000).
But the Democrats also slipped in a feature that gives a tax break to unemployed Oregonians. It exempts the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits from taxes, which will give a tax cut averaging $120 to the approximately 270,000 Oregonians who are expected to include unemployment benefits in their income tax returns for 2009.
When Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes drafted their repeal initiative they could have excluded the tax break for the unemployed – but they didn’t. Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the anti-tax crusaders, told The Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes that nobody thought of doing it. “We were really focused on how to collect the signatures to qualify the measures for the ballot,” he said.
A tax break of $120 might not look like much, but to somebody trying to get by on unemployment it could be significant. And since the number who stand to benefit (270,000) is a hell of a lot bigger than the number who’ll be affected by the personal income tax increase (only about 2.5% of Oregonians) the oversight by McCormick’s group could prove costly when the ballots go out in January.
Naturally, Democrats are pounding on the faux pas, claiming it shows the anti-tax campaigners are only looking out for big corporations and affluent individuals and don’t give a damn about ordinary working Oregonians.
“The campaign against Measure 66 and 67 … calls itself ‘Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes,’” writes Steve Novick on Blue Oregon. “The name would lead you to believe the corporate lobbyists who are running the campaign are deeply concerned about the plight of the unemployed. Think again.”
The anti-tax campaigners “could easily have designed their referendum in a way that maintains the tax break for 270,000 unemployed Oregonians, but it was so unimportant to them that they didn’t even consider it,” Novick says.