Efforts by Oregon’s Democrats to derail a public vote on a gross receipts tax reveal that, as put by conservative writer Jim Swift, “Being an asshole has now become a feature, not a bug,” in politics.
Setting a new low in political shenanigans in the 2019 session, Democrats began by passing a gross receipts tax on sales inside the state’s borders that exceed $1 million, whether or not the business makes a profit.
The tax, equivalent to a sales tax, is expected to raise $2 billion per biennium. This less than three years after almost 60% of Oregon voters rejected Measure 97, a ballot measure that would have imposed a state gross receipts tax.
In an insulting, arrogant move to protect their revenue-raising blitz, the Democrats then passed a bill (SB 116) setting a particularly inconvenient election date if a tax repeal petition then seeking signatures qualified for the ballot. Rather than having the vote take place during the general election in 2020, when there’s likely to be high interest and participation, the bill provided for a special election on January 21, 2020.
I guess they figured picking Christmas or New Year’s Day for the vote would be too obvious an attempt at manipulation.
Adding insult to injury, the Democrats then passed another bill (HB 2164) which changed the language of the original tax. At the time, The Oregonian reported only that the bill “makes largely technical changes to the new business tax lawmakers passed earlier in the session to fund education.” But it was much more significant than that. If Gov. Brown signs the bill, it will invalidate all the signatures already gathered on a repeal petition referencing the previous language.
“HB 2164 is designed to look like a cosmetic language change to a 40-page tax bill, but it contains poison words designed to murder the voter campaign to pass petition #301 (the repeal petition),” said the Taxpayer Association of Oregon. “….it is borderline criminal to rob the people of their right to vote on matters they care about. Politicians should not be able to subvert and void the people from using their initiative process to petition their government.”
Having achieved a supermajority in the 2019 Legislative session, the Democrats proceeded to ignore their ethical responsibility to Oregonians and abuse their power, vividly illustrating the observation of Lord Acton, the 19th-century British historian: “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
As Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said at the end of the Legislative session, “I thought we were overreaching before we started. I think we did.”
“What kind of fool do you take me for?”, asked one of the Three Stooges in Saved By The Belle. Oregon voters should be asking the same thing of Democratic legislators.