A Plebiscite On The Kicker

By Larry Huss

There are few opportunities in Oregon for a plebiscite by only those directly impacted by the decision.  But this December Oregon taxpayers are going to have just such an opportunity.

In December the state is required to refund to Oregon taxpayers approximately $1.1 billion dollars in excess taxes collected in 2006.  Already, Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) has bemoaned this refund, calling it “really dumb tax policy” and has declared that the state should retain “the kicker.”  Sen. Burdick, of course, is one of those unrepentant liberals who know that they are better able to spend your money than you are.

Sen. Burdick isn’t alone.  In Sunday’s Oregonian there is a letter to the editor from Ms. Laura Smoyer who states:

“I challenge my fellow citizens to resist the urge to deposit your kicker check in your personal checking account.  Send it back out to your favorite local charity with a letter to your state legislator explaining that you could not keep it, or simply send it back to the state.”

Ms. Smoyer’s suggestion is laudable if you are so inclined.  However, her reasoning leaves much to be desired.

“The money is not ours.  We must show our legislators that we are willing to do the right thing.  .  .”

Stunning!  “The money is not ours.”  If the money does not belong to those who earn it, to whom does Ms. Smoyer suggest it belongs?

But help is on the way Ms. Smoyer and Sen. Burdick. Oregon law permits those who don’t think they pay enough in taxes (as opposed to those who think someone else doesn’t pay enough in taxes).  Those generous folks can simply mail any additional amount they wish to the Oregon State Department of Revenue.

Herein lies the opportunity for the plebiscite.  Those who return their refund versus those who keep it.

But, first, the Democrat controlled legislature increased spending by over $2.6 Billion dollars in recurring spending for the biennium from just the general fund and the lottery fund.  That represents a 21% increase over the previous biennium.  Second, in order to do that, they raised taxes and fees by over $850 million (and another nearly $200 million in tobacco taxes) despite the fact that there was almost $2 billion dollars more in revenue from existing taxes.  Third, during that rush to spend, the Democrats steadfastly refused to adopt any provisions requiring efficiency or accountability for the moneys they spent or the programs they funded.

For those who pay taxes and think that the legislature did not raise taxes enough or did not spend enough, they have the opportunity to correct that situation by sending back their kicker refund.

Be that as it may, I would like to make a prediction here and now.  LESS THAN ONE PERCENT OF ALL TAXPAYERS ENTITLED TO A REFUND WILL RETURN THE MONEY TO THE STATE COFFERS AND OF THE $1.1 BILLION DOLLARS TO BE REFUNDED, LESS THAN $100,000 WILL BE RETURNED BY TAXPAYERS TO THE STATE COFFERS.  (For those of you educated by the Portland Public Schools, that represents less than 0.01 percent of the total amount paid in refunds.)

I make that prediction now, almost three months in advance of the refunds, to give Sen. Burdick, Ms. Smoyer and other likeminded people the opportunity to mount a public campaign urging the voluntary return of the kicker.  I am sure that the public employee unions would be happy to finance that campaign given that they are the primary beneficiaries of increased government spending.  I am sure that most, if not all, the Democrat members of the legislature would publicly support and endorse such a campaign.

But just to be sure, here is an additional challenge.  Let’s ask every candidate for statewide office to disclose whether they returned their refund kicker – including the amount they received and a copy of the check returning it.  In fact, better yet, let’s ask every legislative candidate to disclose the same.  Herein lies the opportunity to disclose political hypocrisy.  I would not expect many Republicans candidates to return the refund because most already think Oregonians are overtaxed.  On the other hand, I don’t expect that many Democrat candidates will return the refund either – which speaks volumes of their real belief that increased taxes are all right as long as someone else is paying them.

I also predict that somewhere between now and the delivery of the kicker refunds, some happily mindless twit will also complain that the refunds are “not fair” because some people will be getting back more than others.  That person will go on to suggest that everybody should get the same amount – including those who have paid nothing.  At times, stupid has no bounds.

But there is hope.  In the same Oregonian that carried Ms. Smoyer’s lament, Louis Sargent struck the nail precisely on the head by commenting on Sen. Burdick’s statement:

“Thus, the wide chasm between those who spend their own money and those who get to spend other people’s money.”

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