Gaming the Oregon Constitution

Rep. Dennis Richardson

Rep. Dennis Richardson

Notwithstanding last week’s optimistic revenue forecast, which essentially balanced the State Budget for 2013-15, the whisper around the Capitol is that our Democratic leaders are planning to raise taxes without meeting the constitutional requirement for a three-fifths vote. The plan is to draft a two-part bill that will (1) reduce state revenue by extending tax credits that are about to expire and (2) increase taxes in an equal or lesser amount.

In other words, if the proposed tax increases do not exceed the reduction in revenue from the tax credits, there will be an offset — no additional revenue means no tax increase, and only a simple majority vote will be required.

In reality, a lucky group of taxpayers get tax credits and an unfortunate group of taxpayers get assessed additional taxes without the constitutional protection of the three-fifths voting requirement.

The proposal to circumvent the constitutional requirement for a three-fifths “super majority” vote on all tax measures must be resisted.  If tax increases on some Oregonians are allowed to avoid the three-fifths majority vote rule merely because they are offset by tax reductions for other Oregonians, it will establish a new low standard of political scheming and set a bad precedent for future legislatures.

If and when such a surreptitious plan to circumvent our Constitution is attempted by the Democrats, I and my Republican colleagues will immediate file a lawsuit challenging this blatant constitutional violation and seeking an injunction to stop the illegal tax increases.

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