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Other Views: Tax reform won't be easy

John Kitzhaber returned to office four years ago promising a major overhaul of Oregon's tax system. Now he has something far more modest in mind.

Kitzhaber has made it clear he thinks this state needs a sales tax, a belief we share. Carefully designed, a sales tax need not overly burden those at the lower end of the ladder, and it would collect money from the millions of tourists who come here each year.

Yet, Kitzhaber also recognizes that Oregonians want a sales tax about as much as the local hospital wants the Ebola virus. He will focus instead on cutting the state's capital gains tax, the third highest in the nation. The top marginal rate here is 31 percent, compared with a national average of 28.7 percent.

That's bad news for Oregon. Consider this, from The Oregonian. In 2007, some 297 of this state's top capital gains taxpayers moved to Clark County, Wash., where there is no such tax, reducing Oregon's revenue by more than $49 million and taking with them money that might have gone into their own businesses or to startups.

Still, Kitzhaber has his work cut out for him. His fiancée's widely publicized problems hurt his credibility, which should persuade him to limit her role in government to their personal relationship only. He still is feeling fallout from the Cover Oregon fiasco, as well.

It will take all of his considerable political savvy to accomplish even modest tax reform, we suspect, though we do hope he succeeds.