Editorial: Tax measure goes too far

Published Jan 15, 2014 at 12:01AM

It sounds good. Let the folks who pay taxes have the final say on every tax and fee increase their government proposes. On closer examination, that kind of control would surely backfire.

That’s why a proposal by the Taxpayer Association of Oregon is such a thoroughly bad idea. That’s why, too, we hope that it cannot even gather the signatures it needs to get the proposal on the November ballot.

The association is the driving force behind an initiative petition that would give voters at every level of government in the state the final say on every tax and fee government proposes or proposes to increase. No matter what.

Thus, if franchise garbage haulers in a city were to seek a rate increase to cover rising costs, voters would say aye or nay. Enough failures at the ballot box, and haulers get out of the franchise business.

That leaves it up to the city to replace the service, if voters will give it the money to do so. Or it simply abandons the notion that civilized communities must have an organized method of getting rid of the detritus of everyday life.

More seriously, a voter-approval requirement could make it impossible for cities ever to come up with the money necessary to repair and improve sewer systems, to assure that all homes have enough clean drinking water and so on.

Nor would the damage be limited to cities. The association’s proposal would apply to every government, city, county and so on, and every special district, from the rural fire protection district to the sheriff’s district.

We’re all for keeping government lean and mean. Less attractive is keeping government on a starvation diet so that it cannot supply even the most basic services to its residents.

If the association finds the money to hire signature gatherers, we hope Central Oregonians take the time to look beyond their own pocketbooks. No one likes higher taxes; we do, however, frequently count on what they buy.