'The obvious need to revamp Oregon's tax system should not distract the Legislature from the urgent business of its current session.

'As of July 1, every school district in Oregon entered a new fiscal year. And once again, these districts are starting the year with no firm idea of what their share of state revenues might be. It's time for legislators and Gov. Ted Kulongoski to confront uncomfortable choices, agree on a spending plan and provide certainty to schools and other programs that depend on state support.

'Right now, the stalemate in Salem appears to be over the amount of money the state should spend. But in truth, the main argument remains the same as it has been for years Ñ whether the state should raise taxes. Democrats are pushing for spending levels that will require a general tax increase. Republicans want to clamp down on spending, find pockets of 'easy' money and avoid talk of raising taxes. É

'Tax reform cannot be accomplished in four or five weeks. That discussion should occur during a special session later in the year.

'Legislators also would be naive to think that a general tax increase Ñ even a temporary one Ñ is likely to happen this session. Democrats lack the votes to enact a tax increase, and a referral to the ballot would meet a fate similar to January's Measure 28.

'So, unless the governor and legislative leaders enjoy futile exercises, the debate should focus on more narrowly focused revenue sources, such as a beer tax, selected fee increases and reductions in certain tax credits.'

Ñ From a July 10 editorial published in The Beaverton Valley Times

'TriMet's effort to get legislative approval allowing its board of directors to increase its payroll tax is stuck in a corner of the state Capitol, waiting for the Oregon Legislature to deal with other, more immediate matters.

'The Senate approved the TriMet legislation in the early days of the 2003 Legislature. Not much has happened since.

'While not as important as balancing the state budget or providing sufficient school funding, the TriMet payroll tax proposal has significant consequences for the Portland area, and East Multnomah County in particular. É

'The payroll tax increase is important to several key regional projects for which TriMet is seeking federal funding.

'The agency says that without the payroll tax hike, it would not be able to demonstrate to the federal government its ability over the next 20 years to operate the expansion of light rail into Clackamas County.'

Ñ From a July 2 editorial published in The Gresham Outlook

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