A few hours after Oregon House Democrats failed to pass a tax increase for high-income individuals and corporations last week, I mentioned to a staffer for one of their members that an alternative revenue package might now be in order. But when I suggested shaving personal income tax deductions by 5 percent as a better way to meet their revenue goal, the staffer surprised me by saying, "not 5 percent of my deductions." And, having listened to the Democrats' pleas for more revenue to save our schools, my response was just as emphatic: "Then it's not worth it to you to pay more for schools -- that's the problem!"
This is the issue that we have yet to resolve at the state level. As I wrote in my last column, the message implicit in the House Democrats' revenue package was that some services, such as schools, are so important that someone else should pay for them. Perhaps I oversimplified. The Democrats' argument is that when it comes to getting back what we've lost -- teachers, school days or shop classes -- we should turn to those who used to pay more and are now paying less to support schools and services (insert your least favorite corporations here) and those who have benefited most from our economy (variously defined as the top 1 to 3 percent of income earners). That approach is arguably fair but decidedly limited if we want to secure the funding we need for our education system.
- Finance and Accountability