Tax Increases: My Line In The Sand

By Jacob Vandever

I am a movement conservative.  While I have never been shy about voicing the disagreements I’ve had with other conservatives, at the end of the day if you believe in limited government, free enterprise, fiscal responsibility, and individual liberty, then we are on the same team and I will work with you.  In the past, I have been very uncomfortable with Republicans primarying other sitting Republicans because here in Oregon we have a tendency to eat our own.  That being said, at some point you have to draw a firm line in the sand.

So in my humble opinion and with all due respect to our wonderful Republican elected officials, if any legislator breaks with conservatives and votes with Democrats on a tax increase that is not coupled with serious spending cuts and/or substantial PERS reforms, they should be primaried in 2018.

For those of you who do not know, to pass a tax increase in Oregon it requires a three-fifths majority vote in both chambers. That means 36 votes are required in the House and 18 votes in the Senate. Currently, there are 35 Democratic State Representatives and 17 Democratic Senators.  Should all the Democratic legislators get together on a tax measure (which frankly is probably unlikely) it would only require the vote of one Republican in each chamber to push through a new tax.

Make no mistake folks, the Democrats in Salem want your money.  When I briefly interned at the capitol I would take notes at House Revenue Committee Meetings and I swear Representative Barnhart, the chair of that committee, never met a tax he didn’t love.  We have already seen the ridiculous proposals to tax coffee and old cars that came out of the Revenue Committee.  Believe me, as long as the Oregon legislature is in session there will be people dreaming up ways to get every penny they can out of your pocket.

Do we need to find a solution to Oregon’s budget problems? Absolutely! But that solution cannot be done on the Democrats terms.  Even if the Democrats got their way and were somehow about to pass some form of a “Spawn of Measure 97” they would be back within the decade asking for a new tax increase because we did nothing to address the unsustainable growth in PERS and Medicaid costs.

So here is my plea to our elected Republican legislators.  I implore you, do not vote for any new taxes without corresponding substantial changes to our spending structure.  As is often said, Oregon does not have a revenue problem, Oregon has a spending problem.

I have always believed that Republican legislators should get one or two bad votes a session that they could be forgiven for.  Independence is something we should celebrate, not scoff at.  In this situation however, that is not something we can abide.

So should a rogue Republican or two break with their colleagues and vote with the Democrats on a tax increase, I will personally drive to their district and knock doors for their primary opponent, and I have four open seats in my car if anyone else wants to come with me.

Jacob Vandever is the editor of Oregon Upstart, the newest conservative blog on the Oregon political scene.