Oregon’s Constitution, Section 25, Article IV, is clear. “Three-fifths of all members elected to each House (of the Legislature) shall be necessary to pass bills for raising revenue.”
Yet lawmakers, particularly in the last few years, have found ways around the three-fifths requirement and raised taxes with a simple majority. Thus Measure 104 was born. Voters should support it.
It retains the supermajority requirement but spells out exactly what revenue-raising schemes it applies to: “any tax or fee increase, whether accomplished by the creation, imposition or increase of any tax or fee, or by the modification, elimination or change in eligibility for any exemption, credit, deduction or lower rate of taxation.” In other words, if any lawmakers hope to raise new money, they’re going to have to persuade three-fifths of their fellows to support them.
Legislators have pulled trick after trick to pass bills that raise revenue into bills that don’t require a three-fifths majority.
One of the most egregious examples occurred in the 2018 session. It involved the so-called cap and invest measure. They included, presumably with straight faces, as part of the language of the bill that was expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues, a statement that raising revenues was not its purpose.
They haven’t always been quite so obvious, to be sure. They’ve removed deductions and expanded the reach of some taxes and called others “fees.”
Needless to say, lawmakers don’t like Measure 104. Had they not played fast and loose with the original supermajority requirement, it never would have gotten off the ground. Now that it has, Oregonians should vote yes.