Here’s Hoping for a Monty Python Tax

Chuck Sheketoff

MontyPythonTaxRuleIn a hilarious (albeit adult-only) skit on how the British government should address a fiscal deficit with taxation ( link), Monty Python’s Terry Jones says “To boost the British economy, I’d tax all foreigners living abroad.” (family-friendly WMV of just quote). That’s the kind of tax even a Grover Norquist or Bill Sizemore ought to support.

In 2005, the Oregon legislature gave three municipal utilities in the state of Washington a property tax break related to their ownership of a regional transmission line that runs through Oregon. The utilities were challenging the taxation in court and losing, so their lobbyists went to the legislature for relief.

The end-of-session tax bill, HB 31, retroactively relieved these out of state, publicly-owned utilities from a judgment totaling about $4 million. Even worse, the legislature didn’t impose a sunset date on the tax break, allowing the utilities to escape taxation in perpetuity.

Today’s HB 3115 gives the 2009 legislature a chance to right the wrong. HB 3115 would, among other things, end this tax break for these out of state entities with out of state customers.

The bill is about as close to a Monty Python Tax as the legislature can get.

Will the legislature help boost the Oregon economy by taxing out of state utilities owned by out of state residents serving out of state customers for their interest in a transmission line in Oregon, or will we all just look like a Flying Circus?

  • Rusty Shackleford (unverified)

    Good catch.

    Another Monty Python savings: After PERS benefits became taxed by the state, PERS recipients started receiving a small stipend which would cover the added expense. But recipients get this whether or not they retired in Oregon! So if you live in Washington and don't pay income tax, you still get the offset.

    I don't know what the savings would be and whether it would be credited to the PERF or the GF, but there must be some way to withhold that in Oregon. I'm sure there are smart people here who could figure that out.

  • StephanAndrewBrodheadForCongress (unverified)

    I like this one better

  • StephanAndrewBrodheadForCongress (unverified)


  • alcatross (unverified)

    What Chuck doesn't say here is that the regional transmission line in question here is actually under federal control, and thus itself exempt from Oregon property tax. None of the 3 Washington state utilities possess any tangible assets in Oregon.

    The great 'wrong' supposedly being set right here is now we're going to try to tax the electrons flowing to Washington through transmission lines located in Oregon. I wonder what will be next...

    Why are the words of the late George Harrison's 'Taxman' song ringing in my ears?

    HB 3115 doesn't stop there... in another increasingly frequent and frantic 'tax anything that moves' money grab maneuver - it levies new state taxes on a host of things currently exempt from federal taxation.

    Sounds like some other lobbyists and special interest groups (e.g., OCPP) have also been busy with the legislature.

  • JJ Ferguson (unverified)

    Tax every foreigner? Americans are taxing to every living thing on this planet!

  • fbear (unverified)

    I thought you were going to suggest that we tax thingy.

  • (Show?)
    I thought you were going to suggest that we tax thingy.

    That certainly would make chartered accountancy more exciting, fbear.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    Some years ago a friend owned a bar in St. Johns which advertised its bar with the slogan "We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you".

    You would be surprised how many people thought that sounded like a good idea. I think this tax plan is based upon similar logic.

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)

    If my memory is working right gasoline refined in Washington and exported to Oregon is exempt from Washington sales tax. There is however, a bill in the Washington legislature to change that and tax that fuel. If it passes then Oregonians will be subject to higher fuel prices perhaps. Guess that will be a good thing also.

  • Property Tax (unverified)

    Alcatross - This is about property taxes. Government property is generally exempt from property taxes except when it used by commercial interests, like utilities. The tax is on the transmission property, or that portion used by the utility, not on the electrons that flow through it. The location of the entity (in state or not) that uses taxable property in Oregon is irrelevant.

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