My Fifty Bucks

Steve Novick

In the next two years, public services in Oregon are going to take a beating. School employees will be laid off and school days will be cut. State employees will take pay cuts. Seniors and people with disabilities will lose in-home care. People on the Oregon Health Plan will lose services. Drug and alcohol treatment programs will be cut. And taxes will be raised - but not by enough to offset the huge budget deficit.

In completing my tax forms, I decided to make a symbolic statement of concern about what's going to happen to our state: I didn't take the $50 tax credit for political contributions, even though I made several times that amount in political contributions. I'm not exactly rolling in dough these days - I made a little over $40,000 last year - but I figured the state needs the $50 more than I need to be subsidized for making political contributions I would have made anyway.

Granted, it's a small symbolic gesture. Even if every Oregon taxpayer gave the state an extra $50, it would hardly make a dent in the state's deficit. But it seemed worth doing. And I hope the Legislature makes a similar symbolic gesture: I hope they suspend the political contribution tax credit for households with incomes over $100,000. 

Yes, I believe in promoting participation in the political process. But when we're closing schools early and telling seniors and people with disabilities 'you're on your own,' subsidizing the political contributions of the relatively wealthy is a definite luxury. It would only save a couple of million dollars. But I think it would send a good message - 'before we make cuts that hurt our most vulnerable citizens, we're going to stop subsidizing the wealthy for giving money to politicians.'


Comments

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    Think of it this way - Novick kicked in 5 times more than most Oregon companies paid in corporate taxes!

  • jonnie (unverified)
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    I agree Steve. We shouldn't make cuts in education without stopping subsidies toward politicians. And we shouldn't fund education with lottery funds.

    I've never taken the $50 tax credit despite my political contributions. Charitable contributions yes, political contributions no.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    In the next two years, public services in Oregon are going to take a beating. School employees will be laid off and school days will be cut. State employees will take pay cuts. Seniors and people with disabilities will lose in-home care. People on the Oregon Health Plan will lose services. Drug and alcohol treatment programs will be cut. And taxes will be raised - but not by enough to offset the huge budget deficit.

    But we'll still have billions to waste in Iraq and Afghanistan and multi-million toys for the military. This is what those tea-bag protesters should be screaming about, but because many of them are robotic in their responses to the likes of Limpbag and Faux News they'll be going along with this nonsensical party. I'm curious to see how these tea-bag protests compare with anti-war protests as far as numbers are concerned.

  • Marshall (unverified)
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    Steve, you're making one of the most powerful moves that a politician can make: leading by example. I sincerely hope that you run for statewide office again.

  • backbeat (unverified)
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    I'm curious to see how these tea-bag protests compare with anti-war protests as far as numbers are concerned.

    Well I certainly hope the Portland Police (and other jurisdictions) don't give an estimate of crowd size because they refused to do it for our peace rallies and marches. I've put on some major events held on broadway and know what 10,000 people looks like (they registered for the event), yet the police were under orders not to give a count. I asked several of them at various marches and they refused. So you'd better not do it this time, Portland Police Bureau.

    Meanwhile, nice article Steve and thanks for all you do.

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    Well I certainly hope the Portland Police (and other jurisdictions) don't give an estimate of crowd size because they refused to do it for our peace rallies and marches.

    Except that it won't be nearly as hard to get an estimate of crowd size for the teabaggers. Just count... 1, 2, 3, 4... all the way up to, 50? 100? a whole 200?

    I'm willing to bet that there are fewer teabaggers nationwide than there were people at the Obama rally in Portland in May 2008.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Well I certainly hope the Portland Police (and other jurisdictions) don't give an estimate of crowd size because they refused to do it for our peace rallies and marches.

    Apropos to some extent: Kevin Phillips, in his book "Bad Money," makes a good case that government officials have a habit of distorting statistical data to suit their particular agenda. So, in the case of the PPD at least we can give them credit for not lying.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    But we'll still have billions to waste in Iraq and Afghanistan...

  • Brian Collins (unverified)
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    That's a great idea - I wish I had heard about it before I sent in my taxes.

  • Anon (unverified)
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    This idea is totally missing the forest for the tree in front of you. How about a truly comprehensive plan for solving this mess?

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Steve, thanks for leading from the front! I'm not a real advocate for all of your political ideas, but I love it when a political leader shows what it means to also be a true leader.

    Thank you.

  • John Davis (unverified)
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    State employees will take pay cuts.

    That can be dealt with easily, if people get serious. Field services and hourly positions always take the hit. This time, limit to administrators and contractors. (Ditto Tri-Met and their 5% service reduction).

    It's nauseating to see agencies like DHS cut field staff, while adding pricey contractors that they can't by statute anyway. So, I guess you'd have to suspend or become highly critical of their constant declaration that something is "critical to functioning", and exempt from the watchdog leg that has been passed.

    You don't have to do it across the board. Human services is a big chunk. Start with DHS and you'll see it works.

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    Steve, the state is a nice charity, but there are more worthy ones out there. Why not take the 50 buck credit and give it to one of them?

  • rw (unverified)
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    Thank you Steve. Makes me want to communicate wtih you and yours regarding certain issues/concerns on my radar at this time.

    And, yes, I've watched ODFW veterans take early retirement and immediately return as extremely well-paid contractors, was not aware it was a common practice elsewhere. I do know that expensive contractors are used in lieu of bonafide positions on the theory that somehow paying twice or thrice the wage avoids the costs that would accrue if benefits structures applied? I still do not trust that logic as the math does not seem to quite bear out...

  • Grant Schott (unverified)
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    Good suggestion Steve. I'll have to confess that I take the tax credit, which I see as helping me pay my tax preparer, although I did turn down my kicker two or three years ago, which was $200.

    I commented on a post in the last couple of months, I forget which, saying that the OR political tax credit is largely irrelevant and that most of us who give would give regardless. A recent leg. candidate countered that he felt that many of his donors gave him exactly $50 (or $100 for joint filers) because of the tax credit.

    I remember Dave Barrows saying at a FuturePac training in 2000 that only 5% of Oregonians use the Polt. tax credit. How much does that about to per biennium? I don't see that in Steve's post, but OR Dept. of Revenue could provide that.

    As I also included in my response that recent post, the late Jim Klonoski, DPO chair from '74 to '80, successfully pushed a $1 tax credit for the state political parties. However, it was sunseted after four years.

    I see that Jim's sons are pushing a $3 credit (almost indexed for inflation, I say make it $5 for good measure)to honor their father. I think it's a great idea and am including the recent positive reaction from Jeff Mapes. I'm guessing it's too late to make it happen this session, but hopefully in '11:

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/mapesonpolitics/2009/04/klonoski_sons_seek_political_m.html

    Klonoski sons seek political memorial to father Posted by Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian April 07, 2009 23:15PM Categories: Oregon Legislature

    In his heyday, Jim Klonoski was one of the state's most influential political science professors. Besides infecting generations of University of Oregon students with the political bug, Klonoski also was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1974-80.

    After he died in January at the age of 83, his five sons decided that a suitable memorial to him woud be to engage in some political action on their own. So they began lobbying the Oregon Legislature for a bill that would restore one of Klonoski's cherished - but temporary - accomplishments: the "dollar checkoff" for Oregon political parties.

    "This is something we can do substantially to keep our dad's legacy in place," said Nick Klonoski, 27. His brother, Zach, 24, was in Salem Tuesday meeting with a half-dozen legislators.

    The old checkoff program allowed taxpayers to designate that one dollar of their taxes go to any political party qualified for the ballot. It was similar to the still-existing federal program that allows taxpayers to designate a portion of their taxes for the national parties.

    The elder Klonoski saw it as a way to provide grass-roots funding for the political parties and the checkoff raised about $160,000 a year, according to Zach Klonoski. But the law had a sunset clause and checkoff disappeared after four years.

    In deference to the state's current budget troubles, the Klonoski sons have modified the old checkoff plan. Their bill - which is still in the drafting stage - would not come out of existing tax revenue. Instead taxpayers would be asked if they want to pay an extra $3 in taxes to support one of the political parties.

    In a world where candidates and parties can raise millions of dollars in small donations through the internet, I'm not sure how much interest there will be in a tax checkoff for political parties. But his father would be proud of his sons for trying.

  • J Loewen (unverified)
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    I pay my fair hare of what I owe. Not a penny less nor a penny more. Helping elect good people is as important as education. prisons, culture or anything else. The state tax system is full of credits. I tooo donated far more then $50 in 2008. On the other hand I used one of three other umpteen credits.

  • Mike (unverified)
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    Since this $50 is a tax credit, doesn't it represent approx $450 of income at the 9% tax rate?

    Forgo the credit, and give the $450 of income to your favorite cause. No need to filter the donation thru the government bureaucracy.

    Or take the credit to double-dip.

    Don't take this as professional tax advice.

  • Ron Buel (unverified)
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    Steve: I find your concern for state and other public employees, mentioned again in this column to be politically motivated.
    In your last BO column, previous to this one, you suggested that a two-week furlough for state employees was a bad idea. Public employees shouldn't have to feel the pain of a deep recession, you said. You ignored the 16% annual increase that 19,000 SEIU employees got in August of 2008 from Kulongoski.
    Let me see. Who controls our state elections with their generous contributions and picks our Governor these days? Could it be the public employee unions? Aren't you running for Gov Steve?
    Weren't you deeply involved in joining the public employee unions to kill campaign finance reform in Oregon? Weren't you part of the campaign that OEA and SEIU waged recently to kill an open primary? When you have the power, as SEIU, OEA and AFSCME do today, why would anyone want to change our democratic process in any way. You can throw your weight around to have things your way and the status quo is definitely preferable, right? Take the Attorney General primary, for example, where SEIU and OEA combined to give $362,000 to Kroger because McPherson was an architect of PERS reform.
    I see that you have placed your bets with the public employee unions who today tell the legislative leadership and the Governor what to do and what not to do.
    You are probably going to win, but don't think those of us reading your stuff out here on Blue Oregon can't see right through your sucking up.
    We, too, are concerned with what is happening to state government. We would love to see a floor for education in this state at 100% of QEM at all levels -- but OEA and SEIU and AFSCME oppose that. We would love to see human services truly maintained at current levels or above. We would look at furloughs before we would look at the deep cuts the Governor is making in human services and education. We would also look at tax increases. As for prisons, we would not join AFSCME to build more prisons and keep them open to maintain their members's jobs. As for highways, we would like to see cuts and fewer employees on the 8,000+ person highway payroll of ODOT (and no to a 12-lane bridge across the Columbia, also supported by organized labor including AFSCME).
    You have justifiably earned quite a following with your attacks on the right wing in this state, Steve. I do not think it is necessary to continue to suck up so obviously to the state employee unions to beat Bradbury and keep DeFazio out. The public employee unions do not have a corner on progressive thinking or good state policy. Why not a demonstration of independence from you, instead? Show us just one independent step away from the status quo at sometime in your political career.

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    <h2>For the record, AFSCME opposed Measure 61, despite the fact that it would have resulted in more prison-building than Measure 57. And means-testing the political contribution tax credit, which was the subject of this post, is not on the agenda of any union that I know of (I don't know that they'd oppose it, but I haven't seen them advocating for it).</h2>

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