Budget has plenty of fat that can be trimmed
As Oregon tops the nation in unemployment again, our county politicians have responded with Measure 26-48 Ñ a 1.25 percentage point increase that translates to a 12 percent income tax increase. They do not understand that a huge tax increase in a down economy will do nothing but throw more family businesses into bankruptcy and more people into the unemployment line.
We are in this mess because the county, the city and the local school district have been engaged in a gross mismanagement of our tax dollars. Before you vote on Measure 26-48, please take a moment to consider how the government is spending the money you are sending it now.
• Public Employees Retirement System expenses are projected to increase 42 percent this year. That 42 percent increase is what is taking away our money for smaller classrooms and more textbooks. The fact that the city of Portland spends $50 million a year on consultants shows that it spends freely on private employees also.
• Multnomah County has been criticized by a recent audit for wasting $24 million on building projects in the last five years due to mismanagement, project delays and cost overruns. Weeks after the audit, the commissioners rewarded themselves by approving a report recommending $4,000 raises for themselves.
• PGE Park and the Water Bureau fiasco have demonstrated how the city can mishandle a problem year after year, causing it to swell into a full-blown fiscal disaster. It came as no surprise when the Portland Tribune reported that the city's latest project, the South Macadam biotech development, already is being criticized for going over budget.
Another reason why we do not need this 12 percent income tax increase is that government refuses to give up on special pet projects such as big tax breaks for high-density developments and urban renewal. Portland hands out $27 million in property tax breaks to developers, sometimes only because their high-density buildings are located next to a major bus line or light rail.
Speaking of light rail, we are spending $1.2 million on art projects for a single light-rail line. And when that fancy light rail passes by the high-priced, much-coveted Pearl District, you are passing yet another collection of taxpayer-subsidized buildings Ñ including condos selling for $400,000. When you add it all up, you can't help but feel our kids' education is being ignored to help pay for some politicians' perfectly subsidized utopian society.
Tax laws applied to urban renewal districts divert $53 million of tax money originally earmarked for police, fire and schools and diverts it into a special fund for developments and beautification projects.
Let's return that $53 million to our police, fire and schools and let any special-project spending come out of the government's general fund. Simply put, pork barrel spending should not be in protected special funds, but instead should be put on the same level playing field as vital services.
In the end, taxpayers are expected to bear the burden of the reckless spending habits of big government. It will be even worse with the passage of Measure 26-48, which threatens to sink our economy even deeper.
Taxpayers need to vote no on Measure 26-48 and demand greater accountability from our leaders. Things will never turn around until voters do the right thing.
Jason Williams is executive director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon. He attended Benson High School and now lives in Tigard.