Yesterday voters in Oregon did something crazy: They voted to raise taxes on Oregonians. More specifically, they voted to raise taxes on the richest people and on businesses in Oregon.There were two pieces of legislation, Measure 66 and Measure 67. Measure 66 raises taxes on households earning $250,000 or more. It passed by 54 percent. Measure 67 increases corporate levies and passed by 53 percent. The business lobby fought against them. Unions for public employees and teachers fought for them. They passed, and the new taxes will generate $727 million for the state.This seems like good news. Say what you want about teachers' unions, but Oregon's schools are in dire straits. They were facing the real prospect of having to trim the school year by 3 weeks. Whether or not teachers should have tenure, it's clear the schools need to be open at the very least. Apparently enough Oregonians noticed that taxes and public programs and services are related.Businesses complained that the taxes would have an adverse impact on jobs but their fears seem overblown given the taxes' actual effects:
Meanwhile, the group calling itself Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes accuses Measure 67 of lashing "suffering, profitless businesses" with new taxes of "up to $100,000" a year, a formula its economists predict will cause the additional loss of 70,000 jobs in Oregon, where unemployment tops 11%.Measure 67 proposes to tax gross revenue of corporations that don't report a profit. However, few, if any, businesses would see an increase of $100,000 under the measure, Oregon's Legislative Revenue Office reports. The same state agency calculated that more than 97% of Oregon businesses would face an increase of $150 a year, or see no change at all.There were also complaints about this being a "go-after-the-rich" strategy. But a recent study showed growing income inequality in Oregon:
Oregonians earning at the 50th percentile saw their inflation-adjusted wages grow 4.5 percent from $31,866 in 1990 to peak of $33,318 in 2004. The group's income has fallen every year since then, finishing 2008 at $32,659, the lowest level since 2001.In contrast, those at the top 98th percentile of earners saw their inflation-adjusted wages climb 31 percent in the same 18 years from $118,453 in 1990 to a peak of $155,496 in 2007. The downturn took its toll on the high earners as well. Their income dipped to $153,480 in 2008.It's certainly because this tax was targeted at people who make tons of money that it passed. These kinds of "tax the rich" campaigns worked in eight other states last year. And when they succeed, they're encouraging to states like California that have a hard time raising taxes.Is it class warfare? I don't know. But it is true that the rich keep getting richer:
I'd like to think that if I were making $150,000 I'd be happy to contribute more to the public coffers even if I shipped my kids to boarding school or something.