Ever since the pharaohs made Egyptian farmers hand over 10 sacks of grain per acre - probably even before - people have detested taxes. And they like tax increases even less.
But with the state of Oregon facing a budget deficit of more than $733 million, there are no realistic and acceptable alternatives to the two very moderate tax increases proposed in Measures 66 and 67.Measure 66 would slightly raise the marginal tax rate for the state's top income earners - individuals making $125,000 a year or more and couples making $250,000 or more. For every other taxpayer - 97% of Oregonians - the tax rate stays unchanged.
In fact, if you're one of the 270,000 Oregonians who collected unemployment insurance in 2009 you'll get a tax cut, because the measure exempts the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits from taxes.
Measure 67 would significantly raise taxes for only a small portion of businesses - Type "C" corporations with sales in Oregon of more than $500,000 a year. The maximum rate they'd pay would be $1.50 per $1,000 in sales.
Opponents are wringing their hands over the supposed crushing blow that M67 would inflict on small businesses, but most of the state's small businesses would see little or no effect. Sole proprietorships would get no tax increase at all. Partnerships, limited liability partnerships, limited liability corporations and S-corporations would only see their minimum tax rise from the present ridiculous $10 (enacted in 1932) to $150.
Republicans in the legislature say the taxes aren't needed, and in an attempt to prove it they've put forward a plan by State Sen. Chris Telfer of Bend. But the alternatives Telfer and her fellow Republicans offer are either impractical (such as rolling back state employees' pay and benefits, which assumes the state can simply tear up labor contracts) or wouldn't come close to bridging the budget gap.
And that gap could yawn far wider than $733 million if the measures don't pass. The total loss of revenue from state taxes, federal stimulus funds and federal matching grants could come to a staggering $1.5 billion, according to the Secretary of State's office.
Opponents of the measures are trying to frighten voters with the usual conservative claptrap that businesses and affluent individuals will flee the state en masse to escape these terrible taxes. In reality Oregon isn't the tax hell conservatives make it out to be, and these measures won't make it one. The Tax Foundation, not exactly a "socialist" outfit, ranks Oregon right in the middle of the states in terms of total tax burden.
Knee-jerk anti-taxers like to say a state can't tax its way to greatness. That may be true - but a state can't starve itself to greatness either. When they're deciding where to locate, businesses look at more than tax rates. They look at, among other things, what kind of job a state does at providing essential public services - education, police, transportation.
For a more prosperous Oregon and a more equitable tax system, vote yes on Measure 66 and 67.