State Rep. Sal Esquivel's failure to pay about $13,000 in back taxes and interest on an investment property has thrown more gasoline on his already heated campaign against Lynn Howe.

“Is he an exception to what is normal, expected behavior?” asked Howe, Esquivel's Democratic challenger in the Medford legislative race. “If that's a business decision, it's certainly something other Oregonians don't do.”

Howe has made an issue of Esquivel's failure to pay the back taxes in a recent mailer that asks: “Did you know Sal Esquivel doesn't like to pay his own taxes?”

Esquivel, who owns two adjacent parcels on Merriman Road, freely admits he's behind on his taxes. He said he has chosen not to pay property taxes since 2007 as a business decision, accumulating more than $3,000 in interest.

If he doesn't pay the 2007 taxes by June 15, 2011, the county will start a foreclosure action.
Esquivel, who is current on his home property taxes, said he's struggling since the financial downturn, but plans to pay a year of back taxes before the June 15 deadline to avoid foreclosure.
He said he intends to pay all the taxes once he sells the property.

He agreed that some of his constituents might wonder about an elected official not paying taxes.
I don't blink about that,” he said. “That's a business decision on my part.”

— Damian Mann