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Consider harm of tax increases

Our Opinion

Public opinion research conducted this past week indicates that a majority of Oregon voters are buying into the notion that increased taxes on businesses and higher-income Oregonians will have little effect on average people.

It is our hope, however, that those voters who have yet to return their ballots in the Jan. 26 election will pause and reconsider the damage that will occur if they uphold the Legislature's decision to raise taxes on the people who create jobs in Oregon.

We also hope Portland-area voters, in particular, will give further thought to how their votes will affect rural communities that can ill afford to lose even more jobs.

A poll commissioned by the Portland Tribune, Community Newspapers, Fox 12 and Oregon Public Broadcasting shows that supporters of the two tax increases hold the upper hand going into the special election's final week.

We believe that's unfortunate. These tax measures, which supporters say are required to cover a $733 million shortfall in the state budget, aren't the best solution and will permanently increase this state's reliance on volatile income taxes.

A blow to the recovery

In the short term, the tax increases are predicted to cost thousands of private-sector jobs, further damaging Oregon's economy and setting the stage for an even slower economic recovery.

If we believed there were no alternatives to permanently raising taxes, we would be more friendly toward these measures. But the Legislature could have traveled a number of different roads - including asking voters to support temporary tax measures; marginally having businesses pay more; tapping deeper into reserve funds; and requiring government to reduce spending.

Instead, legislators took the easy way out by taxing business and wealthy Oregonians.

In the Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall Inc. public opinion research, both Measures 66 and 67 are holding steady with more than 50 percent in favor. However, pollster Tim Hibbitts says such support for tax measures often diminishes as the election date draws closer.

To better gauge voter support closer to the election, we and our media partners will do additional polling today that will be published Friday on our Web site, www.portlandtribune.com.

Voters and public officials should be deeply concerned about the divided polling results across the state. Hibbitts' research shows significant geographic differences: A majority of Portland-area and Willamette Valley voters support the tax increases and may essentially dictate what happens to the rest of Oregon; most voters in the rest of the state oppose the tax increases.

Certainly, conservatives outside the Portland-Eugene I-5 corridor oppose the tax increases. But it also indicates that most of rural Oregon has suffered from extraordinarily high unemployment rates and personal impacts of a sagging economy.

Don't put jobs at risk

No part of Oregon can afford to lose more jobs. Yet, we are convinced there will be a loss of employment as these taxes begin to be paid by businesses that have no profits - and therefore must reduce expenses to pay the higher taxes.

By choosing this time to push through permanent tax increases on businesses and higher-income Oregonians, legislators demonstrated an astonishing lack of understanding about basic economics. They also failed to ask a fundamental question: Given that there are alternatives to permanently raising income taxes, are you still willing to risk job losses?

Legislators have chosen to risk jobs. Voters don't have to accept that risk and should instead require that alternative measures fill the budget gap. Those who have yet to cast their ballots can still shape this election's outcome, vital public service funding and the economy of all communities throughout Oregon.

Simply vote 'no' on Measures 66 and 67 and require legislators to do better when they meet in February.