As a former Oregonian who recently relocated across the Columbia, Randy Kimsey appears to have forgotten whence he came (Oregonian, "Ignore the siren of the sales tax" 6/4/02). From his experience in Washington, Kimsey warns Oregonians that a sales tax is not a panacea. I don't think there is any danger of Oregonians making that mistake - even though in our desparate need for money for public services we might have to consider such an idea as a limited solution.
Kimsey also seems to have forgotten his roots when he faults Oregon legislators for having "spent every dime of the huge tax revenue increases during the past several years on new programs and higher funding for existing programs." Some Oregonians, at least, recall tax cuts for the well-to-do and the infamous "Kicker" law which prevented Oregon's leaders from setting aside a "rainy day" fund from those surpluses. In the same edition of the paper we read that Oregon is one of only three states to have failed to set aside rainy day funds. We remember the Republican leadership in the House and Senate insisted on kicking every dime of the surplus back to taxpayers - and received effusive praise for doing so from their outspoken supporters and radio talk-show pundits.
Well, the rainy days have indeed come to Oregon - in the form of a 1.5 billion-dollar shortage of funds this bienium and a similar problem expected next session. Were those who supported returning the kicker short-sighted - like a family that fails to save, to put aside reserves for hard times? Caught unprepared, and faced with essential expenses, medical care, education, transportation, most families would try to find additional resources, a second job perhaps, to tide them over. Only the truly short-sighted would persist in looting the future - their children's future.
The major questions for Oregon voters in this coming November's general election will be, 1) do we want our "leaders" to continue to evade the hard decisions and refer all the tough choices to the public, and 2) do we endorse the Republicans' practice of mortgaging the future to fund tax cuts and rebates? It appears Oregon's fiscal conservatives have lost their grasp of the fundamental principal of "pay as you go."
Washington has a sales tax, and I would encourage Oregon sales-tax proponents to educate themselves on the substantial budget shortfall this state is experiencing as a result of the economic downturn. A sales tax does not make you immune from swings in the economy.
And as to those who throw out the old third-leg-of-the-tax-stool argument (income, sales and property taxes) as the best of all worlds, please take a look at the great state of California. It has all three taxes and a massive budget shortfall this year.
No, Oregonians, the problem is not the lack of a sales tax -- the problem is that your legislators spent every dime of the huge tax revenue increases during the past several years on new programs and higher funding for existing programs.
RANDY KIMSEY Olympia, Wash.