The Other Side of Volatility

In their quest for new taxes on business Oregon Democrats are making the argument that Oregon’s current tax system is very volatile.  Now they may have a point, Oregon’s tax code relies very heavily on personal income taxes, so during bad economic times where there is high unemployment and lower wages, Oregon’s tax revenues are hit quite hard compared to other states in the union.  That being said, the other side of the volatility coin is that Oregon during good economic times with low unemployment Oregon tax revenues go gangbusters.

Since the end of the recession Oregon tax revenues have rebounded by 32.7% according to and analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts. In fact Oregon lead every other state in the union in tax revenue increases.  So is does Oregon have a volatile tax system? You bet, but right now in a good year that we should be living high on the hog and preparing for a cyclical downturn that will inevitably arrive, our record revenues are STILL not enough to meet the spending obligation set out before us.

While the trade offs in the volatility in Oregon’s tax structure are absolutely something worth having a public policy discussion about, but it seems that many Democrats are using this legitimate critique of Oregon’s tax code to cloak a substantial increase in taxes.

It seems like there could be some good faith efforts to have real conversation about how Oregon should set up it’s tax structure, but they appear to be being drowned out by blatant efforts to extract more and more dollars from our economy in the form of taxes.

Oregon does have a serious structural problem, but it is a structural spending problem.  The rates at which PERS and Medicaid costs are growing at an unsustainable rate to the point that even the record revenues we are currently seeing in this healthier economy are not enough to close the gap.
As a millennial, growing up I would often hear “do your best, that is all that matters” to which the sterner members of my family would say “Sometimes even your best isn’t enough.” Well now Oregon’s economy is doing it’s best by producing more revenue than the state has ever seen before, but because of the spending structure our leaders have put in place, our best is unfortunately not enough.


Jacob Vandever is political activist, lifelong Oregonian, and proud Oregon State graduate. Jacob is the Editor of the Oregon Upstart Blog.

Posted by at 06:15 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gov. Brown’s 2002 quote best explains PERS failure

By Self Serving Politicians Are Driving Oregon Into Bankruptcy Coalition,

Kate Brown said “PERS ought to be fixed but now is not the time…” (Oregonian September 8, 2002)

That was in 2002, when PERS was only $4 billion in the hole.

Now 15 years later, PERS is more than $22 billion in the hole! Continue reading

Posted by at 07:04 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Kicker Envy 2017

By Steve Buckstein

Individual Oregon income taxpayers may receive kicker refunds when they file their 2017 tax returns based on a percentage of the state income tax they paid in 2016. Based on the May revenue forecast, $408 million could be coming back to taxpayers, with the average refund being $210. A final determination of whether the kicker will “kick” and how big it will be should be announced on August 23.

But even before those potential refunds reduce our 2017 tax liability, some are questioning whose money it is, and others seem envious that the “rich” will get much bigger refunds than the rest of us. So, whether the kicker law is good or bad public policy, let’s think a little about who this money really belongs to. Is it a rebate for overpaying your taxes, or is it somehow “our” money that is better left in government coffers? Continue reading

Posted by at 10:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

No Guarantee of Blue Wave, but Early Warning Signs Are There

My dad always told me, “A year is a lifetime in politics.” With 531 days to go until the midterm elections, there is plenty of time for things to change. However, the early warning signs are there for a blue wave. If Republicans with to prevent a political bloodbath, they must correct course now and turn the national political tide before it is too late.

Democrats won two special legislative elections last night that got virtually no press coverage. In New York, Democrats won a special election for the 9th Assembly District, pulling off the upset in a seat that voted for Trump by 13 points in 2016. In New Hampshire, A Democrat won a seat in Wolfeboro that voted for Trump by 7 points. This seat has never before been held by a Democrat. Until now.

Just around the corner are three special Congressional elections: Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina. There is plenty of time for Republican prospects to improve but also enough time for things to get much worse. Recall early in 2010 when Scott Brown won a major upset in a special U.S. Senate election. That was the first sign of the red wave that swept the 2010 midterms. David Jolly won in 2014, laying down a marker for another very Republican midterm election.

I want to be very clear. Just because Democrats flipped a couple of traditionally red state legislative seats doesn’t mean there is a blue wave coming. If Democrats walk away from the Georgia 6th with a win Republicans should start working overtime to correct the national political environment. If Democrats notch a win in Montana, it’s time to sound the alarm. If Democrats win in South Carolina, Republicans should put on their red elephant swim trunks because they’re going to get drenched.

Posted by at 09:28 | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Real State of Employment in Oregon

Right From the Start

A recent article in The Oregonian reported that Portland (apparently for The Oregonian that is all there is in the state) was reaching “full employment” and that economic growth will now slow down.  Well The Oregonian did not so much “report” as they just copied information from a press release by the Oregon Department of Employment – no independent investigation, no context, no verification of facts, and no juxtaposition against other known data.

Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Bush/Obama Recession, Economy, Employment, Fake News, Gov. Kate Brown, Gov. Neil Goldschmidt, Jobs, Media, Media Bais, Poverty, President Obama | 1 Comment

Full page ad starts debate on spending reform


By Jason Williams,
Taxpayer Association of Oregon

A full page ad in the state’s largest newspaper ran in the Sunday Oregonian this week (click photo for larger view).   It was placed by Brighter Oregon, a  broad  statewide coalition of Oregon consumers, taxpayers, small and large businesses, associations and organizations who have come together to support the Oregon Business Plan framework for addressing the state budget’s structural deficit. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:20 | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Overtaxed and Underbuilt

By John A. Charles, Jr.

An Oregon Legislative committee is proposing a massive series of tax increases to pay for various transportation projects.

The proposal calls for higher taxes on vehicle registration, increased gas taxes, a new sales tax on motor vehicle purchases, a statewide employee tax to subsidize transit, and a new bicycle sales tax.

While there are many bad ideas on this list, perhaps the most offensive is the sales tax on vehicle purchases. It is being crafted so that most of the money would be diverted from highway maintenance into something called the “congestion relief and carbon reduction fund.”

Anything that includes “carbon reduction” in the title is guaranteed to be a boondoggle. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Shaky Assumption?

Earlier this week  wrote that the proposition a “growing population means more traffic” is a shaky assumption. I admire his making a contrarian point, and I’ve long been an admirer of his writing for Willamette Week, but let’s subject that point to some further scrutiny. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Employment, ODOT, Public Transportation, Transportation, TriMet | Tagged | 3 Comments

Anchors and Coattails: Trump in Oregon

If the Democrats have their way, the 2018 election here in Oregon will be a referendum on President Donald Trump.  Oregonians have very strong feelings about the President, so let’s dig into the numbers and see what parts of Oregon are still on the Trump Train and which parts seem to be in the firm grip of The Resistance.  In other words, where does Trump have coattails that 2018 Republicans could ride and where is the President likely to be an anchor on local candidates. Continue reading

Posted by at 09:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Technology Dividend: Growing Government the Stealth Wealth Way

By Representative Mike Nearman

For the third straight session, I serve on the Joint Committee on Legislative Information Management and Technology. In addition to the small smattering of policy bills that get presented to the committee, we have – at least for a short time – oversight of the various large Information Technology projects for state agencies that are in process at any given moment.

One project which is in the early stages is the DMV Service Transformation Project. As you may remember, back in the early ‘90s, the DMV embarked on a very expensive software project, which failed and eventually landed it as number two on the list of epic software project failures internationally. Today, haunted not only by their earlier failure but by the more recent high-profile failure of Cover Oregon, the DMV is just beginning to upgrade. The software they are using today is the same software that they were trying to replace nearly a quarter of a century ago. Yikes.

When these projects are first proposed, the committee is invariably promised that if only the millions of dollars are disbursed and the software project is completed, the agency will realize great levels of efficiency. As a student of economics, I know that efficiency frees up wealth, which begs the question: When a state agency creates efficiency through IT projects, what happens to the wealth?

Each agency has a mission, and, presumably, is funded to be able to achieve that mission. For instance, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife oversees the management of Oregon’s wildlife. They need a certain amount of money to do that. If they find a way to work more efficiently, what do they do? Reduce their headcount, facilities, or assets, and return their money to the general fund, or to the taxpayers? I don’t see this. Ever.

So, the next time an agency comes asking for $30 million or more for a software project, promising new heights of efficiency, I think the legislature should expect that the agency re-divert the savings – and promise to do so up front, as in, “We need $30 million for a software project, and with the savings and efficiency, we will reduce headcount, and you may reduce our appropriation by $3 million per year for the next 10 years.” I call this the Technology Dividend.

A great example of how this could be powerful is the DMV project, which is projected to cost $90 million over 9 years. These dollars come from the Highway Fund, paid for by your gas tax dollars. Wouldn’t it be nice if this $90 million – or more — was returned to the fund over the life-cycle of the project and was used to pave roads and build bridges? I think this is what Oregon drivers expected their fuel tax to do.

Or maybe not. Maybe we think that we need to expand the scope and the size of government and we can hand out big chunks of change and have agencies re-adjust their mission as they see fit. Hmmm. Maybe not.

Mike Nearman is the Oregon State Representative elected from House District 23.

Posted by at 07:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

New anti-business sales tax video

By Taxpayer Association of Oregon,

Priority Oregon has released a new video that reveals the hard truth behind the proposals to raise a multi-billion dollar tax on business sales (sometimes called a gross receipts tax or business activity tax). The truth is that a tax on business sales (gross receipts tax/business activity tax) is a tax on consumer goods because it impacts the price of food, clothing, supplies and even what we pay at teh pump. Go to Priority Oregon and sign up as a supporter.

Posted by at 08:51 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Education Savings Accounts Treat Kids Like the Individuals They Are

By Kathryn Hickok

Six years ago, Arizona became the first state to pass an Education Savings Account law for some K-12 students. In April, lawmakers there passed a new ESA bill which expands the program eligibility to include all Arizona children. Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee also have ESA programs limited to certain students, such as those with special needs. Nevada also passed a near-universal ESA bill, but it is yet to be funded.

Education Savings Accounts put parents in the educational “driver’s seat.” An ESA is analogous to a debit card for qualifying education expenses. It gives parents who want to opt out of a public school that is not meeting their child’s needs a portion of the per-student state funding for spending on their child’s education in other ways. Funds not used by the student in a given year can be rolled over for future years.

To really empower Oregon families, the Legislature should enact Senate Bill 437. This ESA bill would allow parents to choose the education that meets their child’s needs, such as private or home schools, tutors, online courses, and therapy. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is the Governor Serious About Transportation?

The legislature is going big on transportation infrastructure improvements, hopefully before it goes home. The Joint Committee On Transportation Preservation and Modernization has released the broad outline of a ten-year plan to relieve congestion across the Beaver State, which is now no longer just a Portland Metro problem.

This package of around $8 billion in spending on many needed projects, like the widening of HW 217, is an ambitious effort by the chairs and ranking members of both chambers’ transportation committees: Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Eugene, Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay, Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas and Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, but can Oregon’s executive branch execute on this level? Secretary of State Dennis Richardson campaigned on the risks that the Oregon Department of Transportation cannot. An audit of our key transportation agency by his office found that ODOT does not proactively deal with unbalanced bid items, hazarding greater exposure to post-bid cost overruns than necessary.

It’s not clear Governor Brown shares the same concern. I don’t recall her making this the major campaign issue it deserved to be, but last September she did quietly direct the Department of Administrative Services to contract with McKinsey & Co., at a cost of $1 million, to study the problem. If she didn’t know how to handle it herself, I suppose studying the problem made sense for her last fall.

But her response to the study’s results, released more than two months ago, is puzzling. Strangely unable to immediately implement the recommendations of this expensive study, the Governor didn’t deploy her own staff to tackle this serious obstacle to effective transportation policy in our state. Instead, she asked DAS to study the study. The results of this second-hand study were officially made public the first week of April. It recommended more studies, with timelines stretching out through 2018. Continue reading

Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in ODOT, Transportation | Tagged | 5 Comments

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