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December 20, 2013 at 6:15 AM

Oregon’s blunt talk about a sales tax

What are they smoking down south? Don’t bogart the political chatter about tax reform in Oregon, because it will be too much fun to watch.

Salem, Oregon, the capitol (The Seattle Times)

Salem, Oregon, the capitol
(The Seattle Times)

A sales tax in Oregon has as much a chance as an income tax in Washington. The discussion is always about tax reform, but that only means each state would have both taxes in place.

Although, a potential candidate for governor in Oregon does have a variation on the theme.

A Sherman County farmer named Jon Justesen has proposed a 5 percent sales tax that would eliminate the income tax on individuals making less than $100,000 a year, and $150,000 for those filing jointly. Of course, both the sales tax and income tax figures would be written in pudding. Justesen, a Republican, is touted as a challenger for Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is seeking a fourth term.

A Democratic state senator from suburban Portland last month proposed a sales tax that would be used to lower the income tax rates. He predicted huge gains in revenues and massive job creation. When  a reporter asked Mark Haas how his proposal would do that, he explained he was still fine-tuning details.

In the past, sales tax votes have stirred serious debate over the margin of defeat. Will it go down eight-to-one or nine-to-one? I cannot imagine that changing. I lived in Oregon during back-to-back votes. One defeat at the polls was quickly followed by another try initiated by teachers and educators. It was insane and it was crushed.

The Washington Post recently published a story with some interesting maps showing how reliant states are on income taxes and sales taxes.

Over the years, I have sat in on earnest discussions on both sides of the Columbia River, with people who covet the revenue structure in the neighboring state. What they want and do not say out loud is that they want both income taxes and sales taxes.

Here is my humble guess. If a sales tax makes it on the ballot in Oregon, it will go down – for the 10th time.

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