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A taxing predicament
   With a potential $846 million dollar short fall in the state budget looming, Oregon officials will certainly have their hands full trying to either increase income or cut spending to make the numbers balance. Obviously the prudent thing to do is sharpen the legislative pencils, buy some bargain erasers and start cutting the fat. State and local government spending is the eighth highest in the country at $6,345 per capita (according to the latest available figures) and I'm sure it's even higher now.
   What will more likely happen when the current budget cutting song-and-dance ends is that we will start hearing the tune change to a melody of tax increases.
   With Oregon's propensity to be different than the rest of the nation, a sales tax may have great potential. I realize its 'un-Oregon' to suggest a sales tax, but properly executed, I believe it can be one of the fairest taxes. Taxpayers can, in theory, choose the things they buy and those choices can affect the amount of taxes they will pay. I know that's an over simplification but the principal is sound.
   A sales tax also taps into a new revenue stream, the tourists and business visitors. Imagine how much tax the nearly $6 billion spent annually in Oregon by tourists will produce? This will also mean the out-of-stators will be required to share in the cost of the facilities they are using. After all, we generally have to pay when we visit their states, so why don't we charge them.
   The biggest problem with implementing a sales tax, however, is most greedy governments won't let go of existing tax structures and end up just piling another tax on top of existing taxes. And I don't have to tell you how high our property taxes are and that our income taxes are some of the highest in the country. Maybe it's time for Oregon to give some tax relief in those areas.
   I encourage the governor and legislature to work hard to cut expenses and bring some fiscal responsibility to our state government. If that can't be done, explore the sales tax, but only as an alternative to the property and income taxes.
   Let us know what you think about sales taxes. Register your vote on this week's readers poll on the Central Oregonian website -
   A brush with Bush
   My wife, Barbara, and I were coming out of an event at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland last Saturday afternoon. As we were walking back to our car we crossed Grand Avenue, which had been blocked off and had motorcycle police speeding up the street several times a minute.
   We remembered that this was the day President Bush was going to be in Portland and reasoned that this must be his route. We decided to wait a few minutes and see if Bush was near. Within minutes the number of speeding motorcycles increased, followed by a police car, a limousine and Bush's unmistakable new Cadillac limo. As they drove north on Grand, followed by a dozen or more other vehicles, we were the only two people in the center of the block. As the limo passed fifteen feet in front of us George smiled and waved.
   We didn't drive to Portland to see Bush, but getting to see him was well worth the drive.
   On to new topics
   Last week we stopped accepting and running letters to the editor about the "Exposing Yourself to the West" Crooked River Roundup calendar. To date we have published eight letters and held out two or three others which were redundant endorsements. I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to write and express your opinion.
   I think the calendar is one of the best fundraising ideas I've seen in years. Sales have been brisk, but there are still calendars available at several local businesses.
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