Don't solve budget problems with taxes


Published Jan 29, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Read our lips: Oregon taxes are going up.

There’s no guarantee, but Oregon legislators seem to be trying very hard. They have introduced a batch of new bills that find new ways to tax Oregonians or increase taxes.

Want to shoot Bend’s booming brewing industry in the barrel? There’s House Bill 2515.

It would allow local governments to create a new tax of their very own on alcoholic beverages.

What’s interesting is members of the city of Bend’s finance committee briefly chewed over that very idea for a new tax at the city’s financial retreat on Friday. They jokingly referred to it as “a dime a pint for Larry,” referring to Bend’s Fire Chief Larry Huhn.

Staying on the theme of new taxes for drinks, there’s the Legislature’s House Bill 2331. It would put a new tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and would allow local governments to do the same.

There has been widespread discussion of the effect of sugar-sweetened drinks on obesity. The bill’s authors plan to dedicate most of the state revenue from the tax to programs for nutrition, physical education and public health. The remaining 10 percent would go into the state’s general fund, after costs.

If this soda tax becomes law, we suppose taxes on ice cream, candy and other sweets will be next.

Local governments could also implement new taxes of their own on tobacco products, if House Bill 2514 were to become law.

There are many more tax proposals in the Legislature. House Bill 2276 schedules automatic increases in fuel taxes. House Bill 2455 broadens the types of communications companies on which local governments can impose what’s called a “privilege tax.” There are several proposed changes in how property taxes are calculated.

We should note that none of the bills we specifically mentioned are sponsored by Central Oregon legislators.

But before the Legislature marches ahead with new ways to tax Oregonians, it needs to look at spending. It needs to pass Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed reforms of the state retirement system and evaluate his sentencing reforms. Oregon’s budget challenges shouldn’t be solved just by coming up with inventive new ways to tax.