Oregon ballot measure campaigns - especially those that involve taxes - always bring out a tendency to bend the truth. But in the current battle over Measures 66 and 67, the anti-tax side has twisted the truth like a clown making balloon animals at a kid's birthday party.
Let's count the lies:
The tax increases will go for raises for state employees.
While accusing the pro-66 and 67 side of waging "class warfare," opponents are carrying on their own ugly version of it, trying to stir up resentment of state workers for getting higher salaries and better benefits than many people in the private sector. A tale making the rounds of the Internet (and repeated in a Wall Street Journal editorial) says the legislature in its last session gave a $259 million pay raise to state employees.
FACT: State employees agreed to take 10 to 14 days of unpaid furlough, amounting to a $27 million pay cut.
The state is sitting on a big pot of money and doesn't need to raise taxes.
Republicans in the legislature have been pushing this one. State Sen. Chris Telfer of Bend claims the state has billions stashed away that it could dip into to close its projected $733 million budget deficit.
FACT: Telfer and her fellow Republicans are doing it with smoke and mirrors. Most of their phantom billions are tied up in various dedicated funds, and the money that is available isn't nearly enough to erase the deficit.
The tax measures will hurt struggling small businesses and force them to fire employees.
This, along with the corollary claim that the tax measures will cause businesses to flee the state (see below), is the mainstay of the anti campaign, as evidenced by its name: "Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes." One OAJKT ad (filmed in California, comically enough) shows the proprietor of a small bakery laying off her employees because of the supposedly lethal effect of 66 and 67.
FACT: More than 97% of Oregon businesses would see their business tax increase by only $140, from the present $10 minimum to $150. On the personal income side, only individuals making over $125,000 or couples making over $250,000 would experience any tax increase. Damn few real Mom and Pop businesses clear over a quarter-million dollars a year.
The measures will cause a mass exodus of businesses.
If 66 & 67 pass, opponents say, businesses will abandon the socialistic tax hell of Oregon en masse for greener pastures elsewhere.
FACT: First, as noted above, less than 3% of businesses will see any significant tax increase. Second, the corporate tax rate is only one factor among many - including the quality of public education, transportation and other services - that businesses weigh in deciding where to locate. Finally, Oregon's corporate taxes are now the third-lowest in the country; if the measures pass, they'll still be the fifth-lowest.
If we were handing out prizes for creative deception, the opponents of Measures 66 and 67 would merit the GLASS SLIPPER. But because we value truth in campaigning more than creativity, they're getting THE BOOT.