Oregon voters must accept good and bad of tax hike

Apparently voters see the two tax hikes as the least objectionable of the alternatives.

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Last week Oregonians voted for higher taxes.

And while we don't believe that's a particularly wise move in the midst of an economic downturn, it is nevertheless the least objectionable alternatives in the minds of voters.

Oregon, like Washington (and just about every other state), is facing the prospect of deeper budget cuts this year than last because tax collections continue to dwindle. Folks aren't fueling the economic engine with spending so tax revenues aren't as vigorous as they were a few years ago.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has endorsed the idea of higher taxes to stave off cuts, was quick to praise Oregonians for passing Measure 66 and Measure 67, which raises the state income tax rate for the wealthy and increases corporate taxes.

"Oregon voters met the challenge of these difficult times and clearly said that schools, health care, public safety and other essential services cannot be forsaken," Gregoire said.

The clear implication is Washingtonians must do the same.

But Gregoire and the Democrat-controled Legislature don't seem willing to give voters that option. They have talked of suspending Initiative 960, which mandates tax increases be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature or a vote of the people, as the way to get a tax increase aproved in the Legislature this year.

By the way, we opposed I-960 because we believe lawmakers are elected to make the tough decisions. Nevertheless, the voters had a different view in 2007 and imposed the restrictions of I-960. Their will should not be ignored or trampled on.

If Washington state is going to have new or higher taxes, lawmakers and Gregoire should impose them within the restrictions of I-960.

The taxes imposed by Oregonians won't directly impact many taxpayers. It is estimated that about 2.5 percent of Oregonians will pay the higher personal income tax.

The tax hikes are being cheered and jeered depending on your perspective (and/or tax bracket).

The Wall Street Journal used its editorial page to express outrage that Oregonians were soaking the rich.

Joe Connelly, political columnist for seattlepi.com, disagreed. "The tax increases aren't that onerous despite wailing and gnashing of teeth on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Oregon did not really soak the rich, just asked that they shower regularly," Connelly wrote.

The same debate is taking place inside Oregon, just as it did before the vote.

The added revenue will mean fewer state programs and services will be trimmed from the budget (at least this year), but it could stall the economic recovery in Oregon.

The fact is that Oregon voters made the choice to raise taxes and, in doing so, they accepted the consequences of that decision.

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