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LET'S STOP THE $800 MILLION TAX INCREASE
By Bill Sizemore
August 24, 2003
Some were tired and just wanted to go home. Some were cowards and couldn’t take the heat. Others were just foolish liberals, believing that increasing taxes is the right thing to do. Still others were and are arrogant elitists, believing that they are able to spend your money more wisely than you can spend it yourself.
Whatever their reasons, on August 20th, the Oregon State Legislature, passed the largest tax increase in state history; shifting more than $800 million from the pockets of working Oregonians to the coffers of government. But wait a minute. That’s not the end of the story. They will only succeed in pulling this off, if we let them.
Before we get down to the nitty gritty of running a petition drive and stopping this insanity, let’s look at what happened in Salem. There is something to learn here.
I will not rub it in that I almost predicted this scenario way back in January, when the legislature first convened. Actually, my prediction was no big deal. The ultimate outcome of this 2003 session was so predictable that I never doubted the outcome.
In fact, the scenario that unfolded this legislative session has become a pattern, a downright routine.
Here’s how the routine works: After the election, the legislature convenes, swears in its new members and immediately is told that the projected revenues for the biennium are not sufficient to pay for current services, which of course will cost more than last year, due to inflation and population increases. Democrats immediately demand a large tax increase to preserve “essential services.” Republican leaders immediately respond, “No, we’re Republicans, we don’t increase taxes.” Some even mean it.
Democrats then close ranks and declare that they will not go home until they get the huge tax increase they “need” to protect the kids and the needy. The media agrees, loudly.
Time, which it seems is always on the side of the spenders, passes. Television and newspaper stories pound on the Republicans day after day for not caring about the schools, the handicapped and the elderly. Like clockwork, the RINO (Republican In Name Only) Republicans begin to waver. Eventually, a handful of RINO Republicans coalition with the Democrats, betray the Republican platform and their Republican leaders and vote to pass the Democrats’ tax increase.
The first lesson to learn here is that every Democrat in the House and all but one Democrat in the Senate voted for the tax increase. Not so with the Republicans. About two-thirds of the Republicans took the media heat and voted “No.”
So, all you Republican bashers, and I admit that sometimes I am one, please recognize that an overwhelming majority of Republican legislators voted “No” on the tax increase. The problem is not necessarily the Republicans. Some of them are great. The problem is the handful of squishy RINO Republicans, who in the end always cave in and vote with the Democrats. They are the ones giving good Republicans a bad name.
It’s not like it is with trial lawyers, where 90 percent give the other 10 percent a bad name. With Republican legislators, it is almost always a mere handful, who give the rest a bad name. It is only fair that most Republican legislators stood their ground and voted against the tax increase. A number even spoke passionately against it on the House and Senate floor. God bless ‘em.
But that’s enough background. The bottom line is: The legislature voted to increase taxes by $800 million. It’s time to get down to the business of stopping this tax increase dead in its tracks.
Here’s how it works: The Oregon constitution allows voters to call for a statewide referendum to veto or sustain any legislative act that increases taxes. In other words, if we collect enough signatures, the tax increase must be set aside until there is a public vote. To put this $800 million tax increase to a public vote, we have to collect approximately 75,000 signatures within the next 90 days. We can do it.
Understand that legislators could have referred this tax increase to the ballot themselves, so we wouldn’t have to collect 75,000 signatures. They could have referred it themselves, but they didn’t. Instead, they gambled that tax activists like you and me wouldn’t be able to collect enough signatures in time to force a public vote.
It is easy to understand why the legislature would be gun shy of holding a public vote on an $800 million tax increase. Given voters’ rejection of their much smaller tax increase back in January, the Democrats know that voters are not likely to support a larger $800 million tax increase now. They know that, if given a choice, we will say “No”.
So much for the will of the people. A majority of legislators want the money more than they respect the will of the people. Why ask us, they concluded, if we’re just going to say “No” anyway.
Why ask, when you can just take what you want. Or so they thought.
Collecting 75,000 signatures in less than 90 days is no small feat. I’ve done it. A few others have. But success isn’t automatic; especially given all the new rules the legislature and the secretary of state have placed on the initiative process. But we can do it.
Here’s what you can do to help. Email me at Bill@otu.org and request a petition. In your email, give me your mailing address and an estimate of how many signatures you expect to collect, and I will mail you the appropriate number of petition sheets along with a return envelope and instruction for you to follow.
The first question some will ask is, “Why can’t we just download the forms? Why bother with the mail?” The answer is: Because we can’t. The Secretary of State, Bill Bradbury, requires that all petitions be on the correct weight of paper, the correct color of paper, and be printed on both sides. He has created a lot of rules to make petitioning as difficult as possible. We have to work within the framework of his rules, or all our work will be in vain.
Email me and I will send you the proper petition forms, so none of your hard work will be for naught.
Folks, if we let the politicians in Salem get away with this $800 million tax increase, not only will it be devastating to our struggling economy, it also will encourage them to come back for more. If politicians see that we cannot collect the signatures to stop an $800 million tax increase, they may pass a bigger tax next time, or even a sales tax, and not put the next one to a public vote, like the last nine sales tax measures.
Do you want out of control taxes to destroy Oregon as it has California?
This is where the rubber meets the road. Either we stand for this and deserve what we get, or we answer their arrogance with a rousing cry of, “No more!” It is time to draw a line.
I am hopeful that I will get so many requests for petitions that all our staff will have time to do is stuff petitions in envelopes and get them in the mail. Frankly, that’s what it will take.
The ball is now in our court. Shall we accept the legislature’s $800 million increase in personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, and property taxes, or tell them to live within their means, as you and I must? The choice is up to us.
When you respond to this column, be sure to include your full name and mailing address so we can get your petitions in the mail as soon as they are available. We will need your help, whether you can collect a hundred signatures, or just sign your own name and send it back. Many hands make for light work.
Again, my email address is Bill@otu.org. Please, come join the fight.
© 2003 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved
Bill Sizemore is a registered Independent who
works as executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, a statewide
taxpayer organization. Bill was the Republican candidate for governor
in 1998. He and his wife Cindy have four children, ages eight to thirteen,
and live on 36 acres in Beavercreek, just southeast of Oregon City, Oregon.
"Whatever their reasons, on August 20th, the Oregon State Legislature, passed the largest tax increase in state history; shifting more than $800 million from the pockets of working Oregonians to the coffers of government. But wait a minute. That’s not the end of the story. They will only succeed in pulling this off, if we let them."