Measures 66 and 67: We can’t spend our way to prosperity

The Oregonian had a great opinion piece on Measure 66-Measure 67 by columnist Dave Lister that bears spreading the word on. We have listed it below

Dave Lister, The Oregonian

As the debate continues over the upcoming ballot measures on personal and corporate tax increases, you’ve probably heard enough about gross receipts versus net profit and corporate structures to make your eyes roll back in your head. Those opposed to the tax increases insist that a business losing money on millions in sales will pay tens of thousands in new taxes. Those in favor insist that business will simply pay $150 rather than $10. The pro side insists that the ultra rich, sipping champagne and playing billiards in their parlors, will pay a little more and not miss it. The con side says those rich people are simply small-business people who can’t afford to pay more without laying off workers.

But let me ask you a simple question. Did you get a raise this year? Did you get one last year? I know I sure didn’t. And if you’re lucky enough to still have a job, I’m willing to bet you didn’t either. More likely you took a cut. Or had your hours reduced. Or were required to pay a larger share of your health insurance coverage.

Let me offer you a little fact: At the same time the Legislature voted to increase the tax burden on higher incomes and businesses by three-quarters of a billion dollars, it also authorized a quarter-billion in pay raises for state employees. That’s right. State workers got raises during the worst economy we’ve seen since the Great Depression. To be precise, $248 million in pay increases.

Here’s another fact: The Legislature approved a budget that increased state spending by 9 percent. That’s about $4.7 billion more than the previous two years.

Let me ask you another question. Do you think state services have improved as spending has increased? Are the schools better? Are there more troopers on the roads? Is our infrastructure better? It doesn’t seem like it to me. And while Oregon has lost about 120,00 private-sector jobs in the last 18 months the state has added nearly 10,000. Government has become our only growth industry.

Here’s the stark reality. Every budget cycle, we’re told that the state is making budget cuts when in fact it simply can’t have as much of an increase as legislators would like. As a business person I can assure you that a 9 percent increase is not a cut. If my business had increased 9 percent over the last two years, I’d be ecstatic. So how does an increase become a decrease? It’s simple. The unsustainable pension and benefit programs for public employees is sucking up every extra dollar.

Here’s just one example: State legislators approved an increase in the amount of payroll tax that businesses provide for TriMet. On the front page of The Sunday Oregonian this week, we learned that, among other things, that increase is funding TriMet’s Cadillac, no, make that Rolls-Royce health plan for its employees — a $1,900-per-month premium per family with no deductible, a $5 co-pay and no employee contribution. Is your health plan anything like that? Mine sure isn’t.

Only the private sector creates wealth. Government doesn’t. The amount we spend on government workers, even if their wages go back into the local economy, is a diminishing return. Increasing government spending to attain prosperity is as ludicrous as attempting to build a perpetual motion machine.

I’m not sure if Measures 66 and 67 will kill as many jobs as its opponents say. But in this economy, I’m not willing to find out.

Join me in voting no on Measures 66 and 67.