Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oregon voters approve new revenue with apparent passage of Measures 66 and 67

Voters in Oregon (a state with an even higher unemployment rate than Washington) tonight rejected the personal greed and cynicism promoted by tea partiers by overwhelmingly approving two ballot measures to raise revenue.

As of about 9 PM, Measure 66 – an increase on taxes to households with incomes at and above $250,000 (and individual filers with income over $125,000) – was passing with 54.17 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Measure 67 - which raises Oregon’s corporate minimum tax, business minimum tax, and corporate profits tax – was passing with 53.71 percent of the vote.

Support for the measures was strongest in urban counties like Multnomah (home to much of Portland's population) and Lane (home to Eugene) as well as coastal counties like Tillamook, Lincoln, and Clatsop.

Together the two measures generate an estimated $727 million, which has already been budgeted by the 2009 Legislature in support of education, health care, public safety, and other services.

Tonight's results from Oregon are nothing less than excellent news for progressives, and a welcome relief from last week's slew of bad news.

The twin victories show that voters are willing to raise revenue – even in the midst of a recession – to pay for badly needed public services. Unfortunately, those of us who live north of the Columbia River are unlikely to be given the opportunity to say yes to the kind of revenue proposals that were put in front of the people of Oregon.

Oregon has a progressive state income tax – something that’s sorely needed in Washington but which we aren’t likely to have anytime soon – and at least part of what drove the vote in Oregon is the idea of asking those who have made the most money to pay back their fair share in taxes.

Measure 66 adjusted the tax rates to only the top income earners, and conservatives will be quick to spin this as a vote to “soak the rich.”

Measure 67 addressed corporate taxes, and a similar approach in Washington would be opposed with the same argument that was used in Oregon: that draining money from business and industry would damage the state's economy.

But our neighbors to the south have wisely rejected that argument. Given the chance to protect their quality of life and strengthen their common wealth, they took it. Democratic legislators in Washington State should take the outcome of today's special election to heart in the days ahead as they work on offsetting proposed budget cuts with new revenue.


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