Oregon's incredibly shrinking counties--what to do?

Carla Axtman

Very interesting story about some of Oregon's timber dependent counties, their very low property taxes and their sprints toward a fiscal cliff:

Yuxing Zheng, The Oregonian:

Officials in Curry, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Lane and other timber-reliant counties face the prospect of financial insolvency in coming years as county timber payments from the federal government end. The counties relied heavily on the payments, intended to compensate for the drop in logging in federal forests, to formulate county budgets.

Certainly, these counties have a revenue problem due to a lack of timber receipts. But it's more than that. These counties also have the lowest property tax rates and some of the lowest incomes in the state. Their local government infrastructure is unraveling-and they refuse to step up and pay to mend it.

Right now, the legislature is considering policy that would allow the state to step in and take over for public safety, elections and other services. In other words, the rest of us would be paying to take care of these counties.

It's arguable that some people in these areas simply can't afford a property tax increase due to their low incomes. But is it fair or reasonable to expect the rest of the state to pick up the tab? Should these residents be forced to pay higher taxes to cover public safety and elections?

Or should they be required to live within their means--with no public safety services and no infrastructure to provide for elections?

The tipping point has arrived, it seems.

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