Smoke for schools
Stop for a moment and consider the logical extensions of some of the major proposals to rebalance the state budget that are wagging around Salem.
Governor John Kitzhaber wants a 50 cent a pack increase in cigarette taxes, and promotes an alcohol tax that would amount to about a nickel a drink.
The ensuing political to and fro has been pathetic.
In support of the tobacco tax, Kitzhaber waves around a study that claims 3 out of 4 Oregonians support the tax.
Republicans like Sen. Ted Ferrioli counter, however, that 1 of 4 Oregonians smoke, suggesting Kitzhabers study is merely a census.
However, it doesnt get much better from there for the Democratic governor or his Republican foes in the legislature.
Do you recall Kitzhabers proclamation that the real victors of the first special session were R.J. Reynolds and Pete Coors? Presumably, that claim stemmed from the Republican legislatures reluctance to increase alcohol and tobacco taxes.
We found that a curious assertion, however, since tobacco and alcohol producers would have no doubt passed the tax on to Oregon consumers.
Republicans take that line of criticism a little too far, however, railing against raising taxes on hard working Oregonians during a recession.
Really? A nickel a drink? Sounds like were raising taxes on hard drinking Oregonians.
What we are still missing here is a concrete argument about why smoking, drinking or in some legislators misguided push for the one-armed bandit gambling Oregonians should bear the brunt of bailing out Oregons bureaucracy and schools.
Neither is the governor, in his push for increased tobacco and alcohol taxes, encouraging school supporters to smoke em if they got em and lift a toast to our schools.
And he shouldnt: tobacco taxes already support tobacco prevention activities.
In other words, the states hopes to pin its fiscal health on an unhealthy activity the state is simultaneously crusading to stop.
What isnt being advanced as aggressively albeit with some good cause is suspension of Measure 88, the voter-approved measure that will allow Oregonians to deduct more of their federal income tax liability from their Oregon taxes.
The legislature is hesitant to touch this measure because it was voter approved.
But delaying Measure 88 preserve revenues to the tune of $133 million not by increasing taxes, but by delaying a tax decrease for middle and upper income Oregonians.
Consider: the Bush administration has already made cuts at the federal level that will benefit many Oregonians. And Measure 88 wont help the 60 percent of Northeast Oregon residents whose incomes dont warrant federal income tax liabilities high enough for Measure 88 to be of any benefit.
Thats why we opposed Measure 88, and thats why delaying Measure 88 and freezing state spending on new or expanded programs (which account for an estimated 70 percent of the shortfall) remain two of the more logical tools for balancing the budget.
If your household was short on money, would you quit your second job (Measure 88) and expand your spending?
No. And neither should the state of Oregon.