Minnis, The Kicker, and the '06 Election

Jeff Alworth

Karen Minnis has presided as Speaker of the House during one of the darkest, most acrimonious periods in Oregon's history.  She became the Speaker just as the state budget, teetering on the instability of  unbalanced revenue streams, came crashing down with the recession of '01.  That period highlighted the difference in governing philosophies: on the one hand, the "governance" wing in Salem, where legislators sought to cushion schools, social services, and the police from catastrophic cuts, and on the other the "drown government in a bathtub" wing, led by the Speaker.  During the first biennium of her leadership, her style was buoyed by national trends.  But after four years of GOP rule, that bathtub-drowning philosophy is a discredited disaster (both in Salem and Washington).

Karen Minnis is now locked in a very serious battle against Rob Brading to retain her seat in District 49, and if her editorial in today's Oregonian is any guide, she'll be running on the same kind of misinformation and polarizing politics that have been the hallmark of her tenure:

Thanks to voters, the state can spend your kicker only by either a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a vote of the people themselves. I will honor voters' wishes and their previous votes against higher taxes on Measures 28 and 30, and strongly oppose any attempt by the state to keep the personal kicker.

If current projections hold, Oregon's taxpayers will see an average personal kicker of about $230, or $175 for every $1,000 in state taxes paid in 2006. I think most Oregonians would agree they could use that money closer to home instead of leaving it in Salem.

If the government is ever going to regain voters' trust, it must stop trying to undo their decisions and start respecting their wishes. Our state's economy has recovered from recession because of Oregonians' hard work. They should share in that success.

The kicker has been rainmaker for Republicans since it passed.  Not easily understood but easily ideologued, once every two years, the GOP can be the party of "fiscal restraint" and return a couple hundred bucks to voters in what amounts to a kickback for their vote.  As has been well documented on BlueOregon (see also here and here) and  elsewhere, the kicker is stupid, dangerous policy that undermines the state's ability to budget, destabilizes public services during economic malaise, and primarily favors wealthy taxpayers.

Rather than come up with a serious plan to correct the structural instability in the Oregon tax code, though, Minnis is reaching into her goody bag of red meat.  As evidence that she isn't actually serious about fiscal responsibility, notice that she fails to mention the corporate kicker in her editorial.  As kicker apologists inevitably do, she presents herself as the defender of your taxes; yet when your taxes are being shipped via the corporate kicker to out-of-state businesses, she is curiously absent. 

(The Oregonian actually predicted this would happen:  "You watch, all the chatter now will be about how dumb, if not suicidal, it was for Kulongoski to get between Oregonians and their kicker checks during an election year.")

She's depending, as always, on the anger of her base to overwhelm the hope of her larger constituency.  But she's not offering solutions, just the same old ideological rancor.  Let's hope, for once, that this kind of bankrupt politics backfires. 

  • LT (unverified)

    If the government is ever going to regain voters' trust, it must stop trying to undo their decisions and start respecting their wishes. Our state's economy has recovered from recession because of Oregonians' hard work

    So Karen alone knows what will regain the trust of voters? And it isn't open Joint Ways and Means hearings, it isn't "in order to send out the kicker we must cut spending and you can read my specific proposed cuts here...", and it is OK to be rude to actual voters and refuse to answer their questions as long as the mighty kicker is sent out?

    Does Karen not realize there are people whose income is too low to get much/ any money back from the kicker, and they vote too? It may shock her to learn there is no income test for voting. Also, that there are neighborhood conversations about "we get such a small amount back from the kicker, but if all those small amounts were kept and spent on something useful...".

    Queen Karen indeed--she thinks those who disagree with her are subversive, and no one should ask specific questions because she has the royal wisdom. She should hold town hall meetings where she answers questions about her voting/Speaker record, and see if "the voters" (defined as constituents who show up at such meetings) actually agree with her.

  • ScottM (unverified)

    I suspect Karen is pretty good at telling 'what voters want' and specifically correct in this instance. These low-income voters didn't vote against the original kicker law in sufficient numbers to defeat it and I doubt they're going to form a flood at the poles and turn the government over to the populists.

    If you want things to be different you have to move on from denial and come up with a platoform that does two things:

    1) Honestly and carefully looks at real costs of various programs, and shares this analysis with the public. To do this you have to accept the fact that some programs might be rejected by the voters, even if you think they are a good idea. This is what respecting the voters really means.

    2) Jump on the bandwagon for spending caps or other means of assuring nervous voters that if they support social programs, they are not writing blank checks.

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    Want to help defeat Minnis? Come out with us (Mult Dems, Bus Project, and others) this weekend and canvass for Rob Brading.

    Details here.

    And be sure to buy a ticket to come to DRIVE. It's sure to be a lot of fun. If you need a ticket, I do have some that I'm selling. You can also visit the Bus Project web site.

    Hope to see all of you Saturday!

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    The interesting thing is, that although the kicker is packaged as pure populism, it--gasp!--mainly benefits the rich. Funny how that always seems to be the bottom line, no matter how populist the GOP rhetoric gets.

    • The wealthiest one-percent of taxpayers will receive nearly one-fifth of the kicker refund. Their average refund will be $4,857.
    • The poorest twenty percent of taxpayers will receive an average refund of just $8.
    • The projected kicker -- $460.5 million or a 9.4 percent refund -- will be the largest personal income tax kicker in terms of dollar amount in the history of the kicker, and the fourth highest in terms of percent refunded.
    • Oregon taxpayers will not be able to enjoy the full $460.5 million kicker. Under current law, they will send about $33 million of the $460.5 million kicker refund - about 7 percent - to the federal government in the form of higher federal income taxes. If Congress extends to 2007 an exemption to the Alternative Minimum Tax in place for tax year 2005, Oregon taxpayers will lose about $56 million - or 12 percent - of the $460.5 million kicker to higher federal income taxes.
  • LT (unverified)

    Thank you Jeff.

    People who truly care about public budgets specify what they believe are priorities, hold public hearings, and regard all money coming in as revenue and all money going out as expenditures. As you have shown, the kicker is an expenditure. There are people who vote who will get small kicker checks (and the pro-kicker folks don't want to talk about the cost of printing and mailing those checks).

    Scott M doesn't seem to realize that Minnis has never done 1) herself, her Majority Leader tried to bully a freshman of the other party, they broke up Ways and Means which prolonged the session.

    But that is OK because the minority party is responsible for everything?

    I wonder if ScottM realizes that there are Republicans who don't subscribe to the "cut it all " philosophy (see 2003 Senate Ways and Means [Senate split 15-15] for examples).

    Or that there are voters who believe in pay as you go and recognize that McIntire's spending limit (doesn't specify what to cut, doesn't do anything about tax breaks as if they aren't spending)) is no limit on what's gone on recently.

    Maybe ScottM should read some of the coverage here on Blue Oregon of what went on in the 2005 legislature. If people went to Salem during session and saw legislators who were rude to or dismissive of them, they are likely to be voters who went home and told friends and neighbors about their experience. They are not likely to subscribe to ScottM's idea of "This is what respecting the voters really means".

    Maybe ScottM should tell us what programs he would cut/eliminate, and then go out and campaign for legislators who promise to cut/eliminate those programs. But even if those legislators win, they need 31 votes in the House and 16 votes in the Senate to make those cuts. And if legislators can't round up the votes to make their proposed cuts, that is not the fault of people who question Minnis's leadership!

    I would love to see a real debate about priorities that went beyond political games. But that would involve open, well advertised public hearings, no closed door budget discussions, perhaps another Ways and Means tour which goes around the state and listens to actual citizens and not just what some inside the capitol building claim is what "the voters" want. It would also help if the 2007 chairs of Ways and Means would appear together at civic groups to speak and answer questions--I went to one where the Sen. W & M chair showed up, but not the House W & M chair.

    But of course that is hard work. Rhetoric takes so much less effort.

  • Stella (unverified)

    Could we please take a moment to explain here why the kicker is stupid policy, as a preemptive strike against any Republican trolls who will inevitably post on this thread:

    In Oregon's biennium system, the Legislature must create a budget two years in advance. So it relies on the imperfect projections of the state's economists.

    What happens when the economists' projections exceed revenue? The Legislature must go into special session and slash the budgets of state agencies so it never spends more money than it has.

    What happens when the economists' projections fall short? The state gets to save the extra money it collected for a rainy day, right? Wrong. If the economists happened to guess that the state would collect less money than it actually wound up collecting (by a margin of at least two percent), then the state needs to return the money in the form of the kicker.

    But it's my money and I should get to keep it. Wrong. It's not your money. It's the money the state duly collected in taxes. People think about kicker money as if it represents some kind of banker's error where the bank just refunds the money it overcharged. That's not what the kicker is. There was no error in the collection of the money; the error came when the bureaucrats guessed wrong two years ago. The kicker is no more your money than the money spent on schools, the Oregon health plan, state police, or any other state services.

    Imagine if your boss cut your salary because business was down. Then imagine business begins to pick-up, so your boss restores the income he cut by paying you in the form of a Christmas bonus. Should you return the bonus to your boss because you already adjusted your budget for the lower salary? No. Neither should the state.

    But the state should "live within its means." Yes, you're right. The state is living within its means. The state does not spend any more than it collects in taxes. When the state collects more money than its bureaucrats guessed it would collect, then it should restore services it had to cut from the bad guessing. If I get an unexpected Christmas Bonus from my boss, does that mean I'm not "living within my means" when I spend that bonus on necessities? No.

    A final note: If you are a Republican troll reading this, I have a challenge for you. Please offer a principled reason for why the state should be bound by the bad guesses made by underpaid economists two years ago? I don't understand it. Why should economists inaccurate guessing two years out decide how much money the state gets to spend?

  • blizzak (unverified)

    It's all our money. The citizens consent to taxation and can also create rules about when taxes should be refunded. Forgetting that income belongs to the people and not to the government is the wrong way to win this debate.

  • BobTuck (unverified)

    "If the government is ever going to regain voters' trust, it must stop trying to undo their decisions and start respecting their wishes. Our state's economy has recovered from recession because of Oregonians' hard work"

    Please retain this KM quote for when the House Repbliucans try to roll back the state minimum wage. Will she stick by it then? Will she make the Restaruant Association stick by it?

  • blizzak (unverified)

    Before the kicker, if the state took it more revenue than was projected it would just spend the money. That is piss poor policy (for example check out how much the California government grew during the late 90s internet boom). In good economic times, the state should lower spending, not raise it (conversely, in bad economic times spending should rise). The Democratic party/the left was happy with this situation and let the Republican party/the right create the solution to the problem -- the kicker. The real solution to the problem is some sort of rainy day fund to be used in the next budget cycle. It makes no sense (outside of war, natural disaster, famine, disease, etc) to increase spending within a current budget cycle. A proposal that creates some sort of rainy day fund to be held aside if projections fall short in a future biennium might get some traction. Simply saying, "keep the money so we can spend it now" is not good policy and would not be popular with the voters.

  • LT (unverified)

    In a debating society, vague talk about "the left" or "increased spending" may be fine. But budget debate is real life.

    If high gas prices eat into a school district budget for bus fuel, what should they cut to make up for that? Do we have enough state troopers on the highways? Is it acceptable for the state to say that if poor people can't pay for life saving medicine that is their tough luck because the top priority is providing tax breaks?

    Is every tax break currently in effect contributing to the common good of all Oregonians?

    Anyone who can't answer the above questions with something more intelligent than "it is our money" should realize there are people who vote (aka "voters") who are tired of the ideology-driven rhetoric.

    The Measure 30 people bragged that if they got their way, there would be tons of jobs in Oregon, but if they lost, jobs would lose. They won. Lots of Oregonians are still unemployed or underemployed. But when someone asked Kim Thatcher in 2004 about this at a public appearance, she literally ran away.

    That is why some of us have lost patience with the vague rhetoric. No one who supports lots of tax breaks and very little budget detail wants to engage in serious discussion.

    And tell someone who registered to vote in this state after 2000 that they have no right to an opinion on the kicker because the issue has already been decided and see if they vote for your candidate.

    Enough propaganda. Let's see some real specifics. Does "the voters have spoken" involve the folks who try to mess with the voter passed minimum wage?

  • ScottM (unverified)

    Sorry to cherry pick, but I'm at work.

    First, I don't believe I said I was for or against Karen's proposals or policies. I did say that she correctly recognizes that the kicker is very popular and that one gets elected by protecting it. She, not her detractors, are winning this one at the poles. I predict that they will continue to do so. For remedies to this, see my first post.

    Second, public hearings are generally nothing but political circuses (sp?). They are attended by loud proponents of the fringes and serve primarily to give television exposure to their organizers. The proper course of action - and it probably won't work either - is collections of non-biased white papers and so forth that are organized and presented to the public. Not with the goal of 'winning', but of finding a workable compromise. The problem with participants on both sides of the aisle is that they think they know all of the solutions a priori. I challenge you to go into this with the view that Karen might be right on something.

    Third, I don't know how they have worked out in practice, but in theory rainy day funds seem like a bad idea. As soon as you establish one I suspect you'll find that a rainy day comes along. In other words, the availability of the funds means that you go ahead and solve a problem that you would normally let pass. Every light shower becomes a rain storm.

  • Bill Holmer (unverified)

    The problem described by Stella is really worse than she makes it out to be. The problem isn't just that the economists projections will be wrong, it's compounded by the fact that during an economic downturn, while revenues decline, the demand for unemployment compensation and social services increases. That's why we must have a rainy day fund.

    I share Scott's concern that there will be a built-in temptation to spend the rainy day fund. That's why any rainy day fund must only be used to compensate for revenue shortfalls, and not for additional spending.

    The keep-the-kicker crowd will always find worthwhile causes on which to spend the taxpayers' money. That's exactly what happened this year with the call to keep the kicker and use it to plug the $150 million hole in the human services budget and increase funding for schools.

    My recommendation would be that half the kicker go into a rainy day fund, with the proviso that only half can be spent in any biennium, and only to meet a revenue shortfall.

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    Sure, it's "all our money," but we all agree that some of "our money" is legitimately taxed for collective use, right? And we all agree that, while we may argue over rates and exemptions, whatever the rates and exemptions currently in force are, they are validly and legtimately created (ie, by legislative force)?

    So if we agree that some portion of our money is legitimately taxable, then the money we're getting back from the kicker was legitimately taxed--and thus we are getting a free ride on income that we've already agreed should go to public services.

    I believe I've mentioned this compromise before, but I'll raise it again and see what further discussion arises, if any:

    *First 2% over estimates: free for use on non-discretionary spending, perhaps limited to education and health care expenditures.

    *Second 2% over estimates: immediate transfer to a rainy day fund.

    *Anything over 4% in exceeded revenue is rebated to taxpayers.

    I'm happy to haggle over the segments: maybe we want just the first 1% to be a freebie, with ticks 2, 3, and 4 to rainy day. Maybe we want to swap rainy day and spending...

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    sorry--another, VERY simple compromise is to kick back ONLY those revenues that exceed projections by 2%, and not ALL exceeded revenues. It's absurd that we can spend 1.99999%, but that extra .00001 means the treasury gets NADA.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    How about we just put in a reasonable spending cap? A good one would increase every session based on changes in inflation and growth in population.

    Then whenever tax revenues exceed the cap, they'd create a rainy day that the legislature could not spend to unless the tax revenues fall short or the voters approve of additional spending.

    Under such a plan, state gov't would get a cost of living adjustment every biennium and the surpluses would help stave off cuts during recessions.

    Government programs couldn't grow too fast this way but, in turn, they would be protected from recessions.

    Wouldn't that be a nice compromise?

    You can sign ask for a petition at www.RainyDayAmendment.com

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    Torrid, it's a helluva plan. But you're in the "governance" camp, not the bathtub-drowning camp. It would remove a major rhetorical tool from the GOP playbook--forcing them to consider actual policy. Also, it would make it more difficult to kickback funds to voters, especially wealthy voters--again, making the whole getting-elected-on-your-merits thing a lot harder to swing.

    I'm sorry--was I sounding bitter, there?

    Wouldn't that be a nice compromise?

    Folks who implemented TABOR in Colorado don't think so. They believe it has gutted their ability to be reasonable stewards of the state budget.

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    BZZZZT. Don't buy Pancho's BS. "Rainy Day Amendment" is just the spun name for the disastrous TABOR initiative which nearly wrecked Colorado's finances.

    Do NOT, repeat do NOT sign that petition if you are asked to, unless you think the fiscal problems in Oregon should get MUCH worse in the future.

  • Stella (unverified)

    I don't understand why we need a spending cap when we already have a revenue cap.

  • LT (unverified)

    Pancho, your "rainy day amm. " website is really TOA: "contact us" link yields Jason Williams Taxpayer Association of Oregon

    These are the folks who say we should restrict spending but not restrict tax breaks. What kind of a "cap" is that?

    Scott M: If you want one thing Minnis has ever done right, apparently she realizes something needs to be done about the State Hospital.

    As I understand it, my Republican state rep. was pretty fed up with Minnis by the end of the session. But don't take my word for it. Ask any state rep. you know if they think Minnis did a great job with that long, secretive 2005 session. Is there anything she should have done differently? My guess is there aren't 31 state reps. who believe the 2005 session was absolute perfection.

    Minnis has been discussed here on Blue Oregon many times. She is very dismissive of those who disagree with her. A Republican staffer told me something a Speaker's Office staffer denied--that the famous "a fixed % of the personal income tax for schools, period, no detailed questions allowed" Speaker's School Funding Plan press conference happened with little or no advance notice to caucus members.

    On the Blue Oregon home page there is a Google search feature. Look up Karen Minnis.

    Or just use these URLs to read some of the coverage of Minnis.




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    Yes, for those who hadn't heard, "Rainy Day Amendment" is now what they're calling TABOR in an effort to be able to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

    In fact, the initiative does NOT specify the money would go into a rainy day fund-- that is what COULD happen, but not what WOULD happen.

    Ask Colorado about this idea-- it practically bankrupted the state. It was so bad that the voters came back and voted to get rid of it.

    So do not sign any petition that talks about spending limits and rainy day funds-- it's all work from the folks who want to drown government in the bath tub.

  • blizzak (unverified)

    I just suggested a rainy day fund instead of the kicker. I guess I'm pushing propoganda and supporting tax breaks. It is our money and most Oregonians don't feel like the state government will spend it wisely if taxes are raised. Good luck convincing people to support your point of view.

  • LT (unverified)

    It is our money and most Oregonians don't feel like the state government will spend it wisely if taxes are raised.

    So, you know what "most Oregonians" believe? By talking to them or is this just an assumption based on your own social circle?

    Obviously you have never been in on a conversation where people who drive a lot (sales people, delivery people, commuters, etc.) bemoan the lack of state troopers on the highways.

    If someone wants to campaign on "it is our money and it should be spent on tax breaks and not on public safety" that would be honest. But voters in a free society are allowed to think for themselves and to tell their friends what they think--even if it isn't what the anti-tax folks tell us people believe.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    Your comments on the Rainy Day Amendment contain a triple play of errors.

    First, the Rainy Day Amendment restricts spending, thereby creating surpluses which remain, by default, in the state treasury. Unspendable surpluses sitting in the state treasury (waiting for a recession) are by definition a rainy day fund.

    Second, Colorado's TABOR is different from the Rainy Day Amendment on many important counts. The TABOR spending limit actually moved backwards during a recession, the Rainy Day Amendment's spending limit can only grow during recessions.

    Also, TABOR did not allow a rainy day fund to develop, instead it mandated tax rebates for all surpluses. Surpluses under the Rainy Day Amendment default to a rainy day fund, it takes an act of the legislature to use them for tax rebates.

    If you have any doubts, print off TABOR and the Rainy Day Amendment and look at them side by side. They share a few features but they are vast differences.

    Third, Colorado's TABOR is still in place, nobody "voted to get rid of it." The voters simply exercised their option to exceed the spending limit (a public vote is required under TABOR to exceed their spending limit). TABOR was never thrown out and remains popular today (TABOR opponents knew they couldn't overturn it at the polls, they didn't even try).

  • LT (unverified)

    "Spending limits" which don't include a limit on tax cuts are a bad idea. As an accountant's daughter, I fail to see the logic.

    Suppose the federal investigation of the State Hospital results in mandated spending to fix the problem.

    As I understand it, the spending limit folks would have the attitude "find somewhere else to cut to fund that spending, but just cut spending and leave the tax cuts alone".

    A TRUE spending limit would limit all expenditures, including tax cuts.

    But of course that "cut everything but tax cuts" attitude might not be popular, so they hide behind the rainy day fund promise.

    And if this is really such a popular idea, why is US Term Limits sending out petitions to households that never requested them--the term limits petition and one from "our friends at Taxpayer Association of Oregon"? We got such a mailing, and were not impressed.

    If there was really grass roots support from "the voters", then such tactics would not be necessary.

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    Wow, that's persistence. Pancho's claiming that by attempting to fix the "ratchet" provision in Colorado TABOR, it's a different plan. Horse hockey. It's not the ratchet, it's the structure of the law itself, that arbitrarily sets limits without any respect for what things actually cost (does health care follow inflation? Of course not).

    Public services declined in CO well before the 2001 "recession;" in the decade beforehand CO's standing fell significantly relevant to other states. You can't blame that on the ratchet.

    If the voters opted to suspend TABOR--for five years, no less--on what basis do you call it "popular?" They threw out the people who supported it, except for those--many conservative Republicans in legislature--who admitted their mistake and sought to suspend it, along with significant sectors of the business community.

    The whole "it's not saying it's a Rainy Day fund, but it really does create a Rainy Day fund" argument spells out just how disingenuous the whole thing is. This has nothing to do with protecting us in downturns; it has everything to do with cutting spending as its own truism, period.

    This is a Grover Norquist sham, nothing further.

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    First off, the "rainy day amendment" has been marketed as being a TABOR for quite a while-- using the rainy day amendment name is something new.

    And I have a copy of the initiative-- one was sent to my house for my husband to collect signatures, along with another initiative and a survey about supposed government waste. Unfortunately for them, my husband supports neither of the initiatives.

    Secondly, this is straight from the elections office, which shows that a rainy day fund is NOT automatic, nor required by this initiative:

    Norma J. Buckno, a compliance specialist in the Elections Division, said that while the sponsors' claims about a rainy day fund "may be viewed as overstating" the effect of the initiative, the proposed amendment's impact was open to interpretation, and creation of a rainy day fund was one possible outcome.

    "one possible outcome"

    As I said above-- it's something that COULD happen, not WOULD happen. And we all know promises during the campaign don't mean anything-- only the ballot text does. If the campaign's comments actually mattered, the sponsors and backers of M36 wouldn't have been able to stand in the way of civil unions.

    And when you vote to exceed the limits, you're no longer operating under that rule. It may not be completely off the books yet, but it's likely only a matter of time.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    A good debate rests upon good information, and facts versus fantasy.

    So, lets go back to Blizzak's comment, "Before the kicker, if the state took it more revenue than was projected it would just spend the money."

    Wait a minute - That just isn't really a true representation of the facts.

    As someone involved in non-profit agencies that contracted with the State for services (e.g. residential community based treatment programs that provided care for the State's children because we were cheaper than the State run institutions) - I know directly that this statement of Blizzak's was entirely misleading.

    History lesson: In the late 1970's we had double digit inflation. The State was not seeing double digit increases in revenue. So, while contracts to the social services sector did go up, they did not go up at the level of increasing prices. The upshot of this was that staff received less income, program services were cut, and the quality of care was decreased. This happened in the non-profits, and in nearly every department of State government. Then, in 1981, the timber recession hit. The soup was already thin, but it became (as we called it at the time) stone soup. We cut budgets in 5% increments from our already thinned budgets. Depending upon the priority given to a program area in State government, it was cut 5% to 15% and some programs were eliminated - by our Republican Governor.

    During the mid-1980's we struggled as a State government to restore money first cut by double digit inflation, then cut by the timber recession. We had not caught up when Measure 5 passed in the fall of 1990. Measure 5 shifted education costs to the income tax from the property tax, which was reduced. This then was - and many people lose track of this - a massive tax cut (more to businesses than to individuals). At the legislature, priorities were set, some programs were eliminated, others were reduced, and spending did not keep up with inflation. Then the people passed laws that mandated building expensive prisons. The State budget grew during the 1990's, but most of that growth went to fund prisons.

    By the end of the 1990's the State was getting closer due to economic expansion to making up some of what it lost due to double digit inflation, the timber recession, Measure 5, and prison expansions, but then along came the recession that started in 2000. At the Federal level, not one thing was done to help States. In fact, the under funded mandates out of Washington DC like "No child left behind", caused further budget grief to a budget that was already going downhill due to recession.

    So, we have double diget inflation, a timber recession, the Measure 5 tax cut, the prison building costs, another recession, and unfunded Federal mandates.

    And you know what - the total State dollars of "revenue" are up. So what! We have less social and other governmental services in a State that during this same time period has added about 1 million people.

    I just can't stand the glib re-writing of history I often times see. I hope that people are acting in good faith and just don't know and they are ignorant, versus the more sinister option of deliberately ignoring history - I can't tell what people's motives are.

    In any case, the Kicker Law has made a bad situation worse. That money expended to pay for this mandated non-budgeted item could have been well used lots of places. If you watch the news, you know that children have died because our government doesn't have sufficient resources to monitor and supervise abusive parents. You know that State police services have been cut back. You know about lots of cuts. Besides that whole history I provide above, the Kicker just makes it worse.

  • LT (unverified)

    Steve has a point--prisons are a "government program".

    Government programs couldn't grow too fast this way but, in turn, they would be protected from recessions. BALONEY!

    The people behind Measure 11 (and any other "tough on crime" measure) were very vague about how it would be paid for---"the legislature will figure that out". But, by golly, anyone who didn't give unquestioning support to their measure was "soft on crime". That little game takes a big bite out of the budget to this day.

    OK, anti-tax folks: Let's say there is X amount of revenue available. "Living within means" should signify no borrowing, no accounting gimmicks, just using X revenue to pay for everything.

    How would you prioritize the following?

    a) existing tax cuts b) public safety (from police to courts to prisons) c) education (K-higher ed) d) child welfare (caring for kids taken from meth houses, from abusive homes, children orphaned by crime or natural disaster, foster kids, etc.) e) health care, incl. prescription drugs for sick people who can't pay for them f) salaries for management personnel (college presidents, statewide elected officials, agency heads, legislative leaders and their staffs, legislators and their staffs,) and regular employees (teachers, school bus drivers, teacher assistants, secretaries in all sorts of agencies, computer operators, janitors, etc.) g) does state government have any responsibility for National Guard, veterans, disaster preparedness?

    Are a-g necessary expenditures? If some are not, why not?

    My guess is that those who are trying to convince us of the justice of the "spending limit" cause will not prioritize the above list--that takes thought and might be hard work. They'd rather just tell us all good people support spending limits and don't ask such pesky questions.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    Misrepresentation #4.

    The Rainy Day Amendment has never been marketed as a "TABOR" it is consistently described as a spending limit (or a spending limit that creates rainy day funds).

    The Taxpayer Bill of Rights in Colorado (TABOR) was much more complex. It was essentially a bill of rights for taxpayers the included a state revenue limit, state spending limit, local gov't revenue limits, tax vote requirements, required rebates, prohibitions on state mandates, emergency tax and emergency reserve provisions.

    The Rainy Day Amemdment only contains a spending limit with a voter override option. It does not mandate rebating surpluses, so that surpluses will remain in the state treasury to serve as a rainy day fund.

    TABOR was over 1700 words covering four pages.

    The Rainy Day Amendment is about 250 words and fits on one page.

    The people calling it "TABOR" are opponents who think that label will help them demonize the idea.

    The idea being a measure that will prevent government growth from outpacing inflation UNLESS the voters approve otherwise.

    This idea is unacceptable to the spending class, because no amount of growth is ever enough (always need one more gov't program for the kids, art, diversity, social justice, etc.).

    Asking voter permission to grow the budget for such purposes would be unseemly (what if the voters tell us "no"? They might do that you know...).

    Much easier to avoid the whole topic by mischaracterizing the measure and focusing on a donor you hate.

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    I'm not mischaracterizing the measure. The fact is that it is being brought forth by the same people trying to put TABOR measures into effect in several states.

    I'm against it because it's a terrible plan and will only make this state fall apart worse than it already is. Our school year and day is one of the shortest in the nation. We hardly have any state troopers available anymore. City and county police protection have seen plenty of cuts as well. We've kicked ill people off OHP and other ill people can't get onto the plan. Our roads are falling apart. Our bridges are crumbling.

    Businesses are staying away-- not because we have high taxes (as a recent study done by a friend of the business community showed-- we're business friendly as far as taxes go). They're staying away because our education system sucks. Public safety sucks. Transportation ways suck.

    But oh, we're spending too much money-- better put a cap on it. That's a load of bull.

    And I never talked about the donors for this bill, because as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't matter as much as who sponsors a bill-- who wrote it, who's doing the active support of it, etc. as well as what the bill actually says.

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    I should also note that Americans for Limited Government and Americans for Tax Reform (Grover Norquist) are pushing this item in 11 states.

    For those who are interested, there is some good info here: http://www.progressivestates.org/content/295/06192006-the-taxpayers-bill-of-goods

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    Freedomworks, one of the chief supporters of this initiative, has even called it a taxpayer bill of rights. They talk about how they're bringing it to states around the country.

    And we didn't just pull the term "TABOR" out of thin air-- chief supporters of the initiative (such as FreedomWorks) have called it the taxpayer bill of rights themselves. They talk about how they're bringing it to states around the country, including Oregon. They also talk about:

    Nationally, passage of Referendum C in Colorado-- the one state that fully implements TABOR-- will severely hamper the movement to implement TABOR in Florida, Georgia, Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Kansas and other states.

    The fact is that as early as last summer they had articles on TABOR and bringing it to Oregon. They were talking about it being a TABOR. When the progressive community started working hard to get the word out on what happened to Colorado, they backed off and started using the rainy day fund tagline.

  • blizzak (unverified)


    The results of measure 28 and 30 seem to indicate that most (voting) Oregonians don't believe the government will spend new tax revenue wisely.


    Not trying to re-write history, just explaining how the pre-kicker system worked (notice the word "if" in my sentence).

    Keep sticking to the party/ideological/whatever line -- I'm sure it will lead to success in November/May.

  • Ramon (unverified)

    It should be obvious by now.

    In order for Oregon to function, our state gov't needs unlimited public spending and borrowing. For that, we need a legislature without term limits, plenty of lobbyists to promote special interests, and a cheerleading media.

    We need to drown competitive bidding and outsourcing in the bathtub, to increase PERS benefits, and to provide state-paid, first-dollar health insurance for all public employees and retirees (with zero deductible, zero co-pay, and with no pre-existing condition riders).

    Even then, there will be unfinished business. We must ban the Initiative & Referendum process.

    Eventually, in a Democracy, we get what we deserve.

  • Travis (unverified)

    TJ: "So if we agree that some portion of our money is legitimately taxable, then the money we're getting back from the kicker was legitimately taxed--and thus we are getting a free ride on income that we've already agreed should go to public services."

    Close, but nope. We agreed that some portion of our money is legitimately taxable, UNDER THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS EXISTING AT THE TIME. This includes the economists guesstimate.

    It's ok. You were close.

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    The "terms and conditions" are the rates and exemptions under which we are taxed. That has nothing to do with the estimate of the revenue produced by income taxed at those agreed upon rates. They have not changed significantly in years.

  • LT (unverified)

    blizzak--you must have been really sorry when Tim Knopp left the legislature, as you two think alike.

    LT- The results of measure 28 and 30 seem to indicate that most (voting) Oregonians don't believe the government will spend new tax revenue wisely.

    The turnout was lower for 28 and 30 than for candidate elections, but there were politicians like Minnis and Knopp trying to say that the votes on 28 and 30 were more important than any other election.

    A friend of mine was really undecided about 28. He and his adult son debated back and forth--the son was concerned about the cost of college tuition. My friend voted differently than his son, sealed the envelope, then worried he had voted the wrong way. Tim Knopp told a radio reporter "Everyone who voted against Measure 28 did so for the same reason and it was an easy decision for all of them". I told my friend about this and he was furious. How dare a politician he'd never met tell him what he thought about a ballot measure!

    Measure 28 was a legislative referral And don't forget the Mystery Money crowd who said "vote no, because there is plenty of money to avoid the cuts everyone is worried about" and then after the failure of 28 there were drastic cuts and they could never explain where the money they talked about went--it remained a mystery. One of the leading legislators in that crowd was Dan Doyle who had some problems with his own finances. But that's OK because they won the election, therefore no one is supposed to question their wisdom?

    Not everyone who votes pays close enough attention to know the difference between a legislative referral and a referendum put on the ballot by petitioners. Believe it or not, some people are so busy with work, family, church, etc. that they don't spend the sort of time studying politicial issues that folks here on the blog spend.

    That's what Measure 30 was, a referendum. And some estimates were made that without Dick Armey coming here and his national group's help, it never would have gotten on the ballot.

    A friend abstained on that one--he looked at the language in the voters pamphlet and said "I thought we paid legislators to deal with such complex measures--why do they want us to vote on this?"

    But the folks who say "the voters have spoken" don't want to listen to voices like that. They want us to believe that if a county went one way for 28/30 and then the other way during a candidate election with a higher turnout, the legislators elected are supposed to look only at the 28/30 result and not listen to actual constituents. Well, neither of those are on the ballot this year, there will be legislators elected, and some day there will be new measures numbered 28 and 30 on different subjects.

    Ramon--do you really think competitive bidding is the answer, or is the answer audits and oversight? Should there be audits of competitive bidding? Or should it be done privately because what David Safabian did with GSA at the federal level (was just convicted) will never happen in Oregon because as long as there is a competitive bidding process? How do you know it will be flawless and never need an Did you support a system of statewide health care coverage for all teachers/ school employees last session (Minnis didn't--rumor was some lobbying groups were afraid it would cut into their business) or are you saying that only employees of private business should have employer paid health care? Give low pay and no benefits to public employees because all good people work for the private sector? You might be right on some points, but sarcasm doesn't sway opinion.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    Misrespresentation #5.

    You said: "Freedomworks, one of the chief supporters of this initiative, has even called it a taxpayer bill of rights."

    FreedomWorks hasn't contributed a dime to the Rainy Day Amendment, nor are any of the chief petitioners for the measure affiliated with FreedomWorks in any way.

    The quote you pulled had nothing to do with this specific measure. You are the one reading the connection into it.

    Try again.

  • blizzak (unverified)


    Advocacy like yours will doom your position to failure. If you track back to my original post, you'll see that I proposed a rainy day fund instead of the kicker. That's right, I proposed eliminating the kicker. So, I'm at least nominally on your side. However, you went into attack mode instantly -- accusing me of supporting tax breaks, being un-intelligent, and basing my view of the world on my circle of friends.

    Now you say that even elections don't indicate how people think about issues. I'll agree that elections are imperfect. What's your source that indicates how Oregonians "really" feel? Are you a member of the revolutionary cadre?

    What is the purpose of your political advocacy? Are you actually trying to convince people of your point of view? It seems to me that you're digging in your heels, advocating positions that are destined to fail, alienating potential allies and thus ensuring that the people you are supposedly trying to help will continue to get screwed over again and again. Nice work.

    Ed- you can't pull my post without pulling LT's.

  • LT (unverified)

    My only point was to say that no one knows what actual voters think. I oppose those who say "the voters have spoken" as if no one who registered after that particular election has a right to an opinion (and of course voters never change their mind?).

    I told a story about talking with a friend about Measure 28 and a friend about Measure 30. That such relaying of conversations was turned into being accused of calling someone unintelligent.

    What that response tells me is that my new friend is right--political discussions in person tend to be more intelligent and a better use of time than blogging. If someone takes that sentence to mean I am insulting them, there is nothing I can do about it (except ignore this topic or blogging in general and find more worthwhile activities).

  • blizzak (unverified)

    LT said: Anyone who can't answer the above questions with something more intelligent than "it is our money" should realize there are people who vote (aka "voters") who are tired of the ideology-driven rhetoric.

    But you're probably right about blogging being a waste of time.

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    Way upthread Blizzak made a point that's worth observing, though I tend to feel his (her?) agenda isn't effectiveness of the liberal message so much as it's subversion. Nevertheless:

    Forgetting that income belongs to the people and not to the government is the wrong way to win this debate.

    I'd phrase it slightly differently: forgetting that people think much/all taxed income is wasted is the wrong way to win this debate.

    The reason the kicker isn't an easy fight is because it is an easily demagogued issue. Any efforts at responsible governance can be tossed off with a bit of tired rhetoric about stealing the people's money. But the GOP have no great fidelity to the idea of returning the people's money either--witness Minnis' refusal to put the corporate kicker into the mix. They are just more brazen about appealing to populism while appropriating the same money they condemn Democrats want to put toward sensible governance. Or cynical. So Blizzak's right: liberals should recognize this for the trap it is and not fall into it.

    I'm sure that's what he meant.

  • blizzak (unverified)

    thanks for the charitable re-framing.

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    thanks for the charitable re-framing.

    <h2>Ain't I just generous that way?</h2>

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