Thursday, February 02, 2006

Anti-tax group initiative launches quiet assault on Oregon

Eugene Daily Emerald:

SALEM — With little fanfare, anti-tax activists have begun a signature-gathering drive to ask Oregon voters this November to clamp a tight new limit on state government spending.

If the measure wins a spot on the ballot, it will touch off what’s expected to be a high-spending campaign battle between tax foes who want to restrict government spending and those who say such a limit would put schools and important social services at risk.

Jason Williams of the Taxpayers Association of Oregon says thousands of petition sheets have been mailed to volunteers across the state asking them to help collect signatures for a new spending limit to replace the current one.

Paid signature gatherers might be brought in later to help round up the 100,000-plus signatures needed by the July deadline to qualify the spending limit proposal for the fall ballot, Williams says.

Ah yes. The dubiously associated and dubiously named Taxpayer Association of Oregon.

Paid signature gatherers, eh? Didn't we go through this with Bill Sizemore numerous times already? One hopes that the powers that be in Oregon will keep a watchful eye on the signature gathering, making certain that Williams is following the law:

Ijoma Otti, 21, a student at Portland Community College, said B & P hired him to collect signatures for four initiatives, all jockeying for a spot on the November 2006 ballot:

_ Initiative 57, an "eminent domain" proposal which would bar government from condemning private property for use by a private developer. The initiative is backed by Oregonians in Action, the property rights group behind the state's new property compensation law.

_ Initiative 14, which would allow taxpayers to claim personal income tax deductions for exemptions claimed on federal returns, backed by FreedomWorks, an influential Oregon group that's also called for a statewide spending limit.

_ Initiative 24, which would require judges to be elected on a district level, instead of statewide, which is also a FreedomWorks proposal.

_ Initiative 23, which prohibits insurance companies from using personal credit scores in calculating rates or premiums. The measure is sponsored by anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore.

But this isn't Sizemore or FreedomWorks. This is Jason Williams. Even though Williams is a part of that tight knit little group of Oregonians In Action/Oregon Taxpayers United/Sizemore/Russ Walker, he just wouldn't use those illegal signature gathering methods to get his petitions turned in on time.

I'm just sure of it.

Really I am.

So what's this little initiative petition all about, anyway? Its about a scheme called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

In a nutshell, it would place spending caps on Oregon's budget. And like all simplistic, neato sounding might look good on paper. But once its implemented it obliterates the ability of the state to fund even the most basic of services:

A growing body of evidence shows that Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, has contributed to a significant decline in that state’s public services. This decline has serious implications not only for the 4.6 million residents of Colorado, but also for the many millions of residents of other states in which TABOR-like measures are now being promoted.

TABOR, a state constitutional amendment adopted in 1992, limits the growth of state and local revenues to a highly restrictive formula: inflation plus the annual change in population. This formula is insufficient to fund the ongoing cost of government. By creating a permanent revenue shortage, TABOR pits state programs and services against each other for survival each year and virtually rules out any new initiatives to address unmet or emerging needs.

You think Oregon's budget is f'd up now? Wait until Jason Williams' little addition to the law gets its hands on it.