In 1996, Oregon voters made it clear just how difficult they want it to be for the Legislature to add new taxes.
Voters approved Measure 25. It requires a three-fifths vote in the Legislature before new taxes are passed.
In the House, that would be 36 votes. In the Senate, that would be 18 votes.
We know Gov. John Kitzhaber and Oregon Democrats can read. It’s also not a stretch to think that many of them are quite familiar with Measure 25.
But it’s outrageous that they are apparently conniving a way around it. There are such rumors in Salem. State Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, wrote about them in his weekly newsletter.
The alleged scheme works like this: Draft a two-part bill. One part reduces state revenue by extending tax credits that are about to expire. Part two increases taxes by an equal or lesser amount.
That adds up to no net tax increase, so the bill doesn’t require more than a simple majority to pass.
But, obviously, some lucky group gets some tax credits that will presumably sunset. Some unlucky group gets their taxes increased.
It doesn’t violate what Oregon voters said in Measure 25. It sure seems to violate what voters meant.
The Legislature is in a jam on the budget. Republicans want more cuts to the state employees retirement system, called PERS, and oppose new taxes. Democrats have proposed some cuts to PERS and additional taxes.
We don’t know that anybody is going to actually try to solve the budget impasse with a disguised tax increase. But it would be the kind of move that encourages voters to again use the initiative process to put more controls on legislative authority. What’s worse, it would erode a bit more of the trust Oregonians have in their politicians.