Measure 59: an elixir for millionaires

Sizemore's Measure 59 would benefit the rich at the expense of the rest of us

If you make between $30,000 and $83,000 annually, Bill Sizemore's Measure 59 would save you an estimated $50 a year. If you make $1 million, you stand to save about $16,000 in taxes. What's not to like about that deal (as long as you're a millionaire)?

Measure 59, which will be on the Nov. 4 ballot, is a Sizemore retread, patterned after a measure defeated by Oregonians in 2000. They should do the same in 2008 and send Sizemore another message that his anti-government, anti-school agenda is yesterday's news.

The measure purports to cut taxes for the common folks by allowing Oregonians to deduct all of their federal income taxes when computing state income taxes. But like many other measures pushed by Sizemore over the years, this one is an empty promise with a nasty kick in the end for the state and many of its residents.

State law already allows Oregonians to deduct up to $5,600 of their federal tax payments — an amount that is adjusted each year based on inflation. According to state estimates, the Sizemore measure would net 70 percent of Oregon families absolutely nothing, because they are already able to deduct all of their federal taxes. Even for the upper end of the middle class, the savings would be puny.

The truth is, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, 75 percent of the tax savings would go to fewer than 100,000 Oregonians who make more than $165,000 a year. One percent of Oregonians, those with incomes of $400,000 or more, would get half of the total tax savings.

Meanwhile, the state estimates it would lose more than $1.3 billion in revenues in the next biennium and $2.4 billion in the following two years. That's on top of whatever hit it likely will take from the deteriorating economy. The Legislature and the state's residents would find themselves right back in the middle of a no-win cut, cut, cut budget session, with those least able to afford it — and least likely to benefit from Measure 59 — taking the biggest hits.

Here's the breakdown on where the state spends its general fund money in the current biennium, and thus a window on where future cuts would likely come from: education, $7.5 billion, 54 percent; services for children, the elderly and disabled, $3.4 billion, 24 percent; public safety, $1.8 billion, 13 percent; regulation and administration, $1.2 billion, 9 percent.

So we can take big cuts out of education, out of services to the state's most vulnerable and out of public safety. Or we can tell Bill Sizemore, again, that we are not interested in tearing this state down.

We recommend a no vote on Measure 59.

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