Looking for a kick start
from Oregon's kicker law
The State of Oregon is going to send you a check. A pretty good-sized check, it appears.
Of course that's only true if you were one of the folks who paid state income tax last year.
Oregon is one of a kind when it comes to returning money to the taxpayer. When actual tax money received from Oregonians and firms doing business in Oregon exceeds (by two percent or more) the projections made two years earlier by economists, the state kicks the "excess" money back to the taxpayers.
In terms of containing the growth of government, the program is helping.
In terms of reminding the governor, the 90 legislators and the heads of departments and divisions in state government, the kicker is a continual reminder of whose money it is that they are spending.
On the balance the kicker law (now amendment) has been an effective constraint on the growth of state government. We applaud that effect.
However, recent years have shown that Oregon's tax revenues based on income are highly volatile. In fact, local education and services by state and local governments, in general, took a massive hit over the last several years.
As is almost always the case, the people really being shortchanged are those who least can afford it. Even today the Department of Human Services is trying to dig out of a $172 million hole.
Both major party gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Ted Kulongoski and Republican Ron Saxton, are suggesting some tinkering with the kicker. This is dangerous in Oregon. For years, Social Security was described as the "third" or "hot" rail of national politics. In Oregon it's the kicker.
However they both have proposed rescinding the corporate tax kicker (about 30 percent of the total amount) and placing that money in a so-called "rainy day fund."
Much, if not most, of the corporate tax collected in this state goes to corporations from outside the state. The effect on Oregon jobs and corporate investment would be minimal.
Money in such a fund would be untouched unless revenue fell short of estimates by some pre-ordained number. It would help keep publicly funded services on a more even level regardless of the immediate economy.
We think the governor, whoever he or she may be, and the Legislature should seriously consider a referendum on the matter. The people of Oregon have seen the effects of failing to plan for the rainy days of lower-than-expected revenues. Give them the opportunity to plan for them as well.
Cherriots in the pits,
gunning for support
As related in a story in this issue of the Itemizer-Observer, the Salem Cherriots bus system seems intent on delivering a message to its riders and the taxpaying public.
The message is: Provide us the funds with which to operate or we won't be there.
It's hard to argue with the concept. Services cost money. Bus fares alone don't cover the cost of providing a reasonably good transportation option for the public.
Sadly, however, the Cherriots reduction in service may be hitting some areas harder than others. An example is seen with elimination of service to Salemtowne a neighborhood comprised primarily of senior citizens.
Another example is eliminating service to West Salem High.
By targeting both seniors and high school areas, the Cherriots are eliminating a transportation option for groups that may depend on buses to a greater extent than others.
While not being privy to ridership numbers it raises questions about an ulterior motive. That is, seeking to build support by hurting the patrons who need the service the most.
Is their some logic to thinking that eliminating public transportation from older and younger patrons will generate greater support for a November tax measure to support the system?
If there is, we fail to see it.
In fact, we see a marginal city bus system proving how little it is really needed. Mass transit in west coast cities has had a hard time succeeding. It may be that the demand has simply been too little to adequately support it.
In the northeastern United States and in many other large metropolitan areas, commuters, shoppers, students and others regularly use not one mass transit system to move from one point to another but often two or three. As an example, buses, trains and subways may all be used to move a New Jersey commuter from home to work and back.
Out here in the Wild West we've been fortunate to have roads and parking spaces that enable us to use private transportation. The result is underfunding bus and rail systems that underserve their public.
With the Salem Cherriots we're seeing both -- underfunding and underserving. We don't like the appearance of trying to gain support for additional public funding by eliminating service to those who may need it most.
For most Itemizer-Observer readers, this is an issue in which they have little interest or stake. Maybe that's just as well.