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County has the gravel-tax option

Pam Benham has suggested that the county should not 'furlough' county employees to cover the county's budget deficit of $750,000 for next year. Benham makes two points in support of her argument: First that these furloughs will mean that the availability of county department services, land use, county assessor, county clerk, etc., and many others, will be reduced to four days a week. She suggests that the problem could be handled by covering this year's deficit out of the county's reserve funds now at $3.8 million. It makes sense that reserve funds be drawn down by just 20 percent to provide services in a tough year and then replaced in good years.

I agree with Pam on this and would add to other ideas. First, wages paid to county employees have two great benefits for those of us who live and work in the county. The county employees provide essential services and this is good for us all. And second, the wages paid to county employees come back into the county economy through all the things they buy - groceries, CRPUD bill payments, restaurants, car purchases, etc. The income they spend makes jobs for others, and those expenditures make further jobs. If you cut their incomes by $750,000 then that's money that will not be spent by them and then re-spent by a second layer of workers and businesses, etc. in the county this year. The adverse impact on employment and economic activity in the county will be substantially more than $750,000.

Finally, in talking to Jeannie Bonar, it comes to mind that back in the 1990s the voters passed a measure instructing the county to collect a tax on shipments of gravel and minerals in and out of the county. As I understand it, the county has not been doing some substantial part of this and letting certain commercial interests - much of it out of county businesses - get by without paying these mandated taxes, which would have from then to now, and from now going forward, provided a significant offset to the county's budget deficit.

I would ask our County Commissioners, Earl Fisher, Tony Hyde and Henry Heimuller, have a new look at this and maybe do a fix reflecting these factors.

- Michael F. Sheehan, Scappoose