Oregon House passes tax increase on corporations and the wealthy

Following up on yesterday’s post comparing the cojones of Oregon Democrats to the relative lack thereof in their Washington counterparts (“Oregon Dems play ball; Washington Dems lack ‘em“), the Oregon House passed two bills yesterday raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. The two tax increases would bring in a combined $733 million over the 2009-2011 biennium, softening cuts to education by filling in a sizeable chunk of Oregon’s estimated $4 billion revenue shortfall.

The bills have already passed out of committee in the Senate, where they are widely expected to pass. And…

Pleased by the votes, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said the measures “will not solve our budget shortfalls, but they will help thousands of Oregonians during this very trying economic period. … I look forward to signing these measures into law.”

It is interesting to note that by raising income taxes from the current top rate of 9 percent to 10.8 percent on household incomes over $250,000 a year, and 11 percent on household incomes over $500,000, Oregon’s HB 2649 will have a similar impact on the wealthy as would have the high-earners income tax pushed by advocates like me during Washington’s previous session, which in most iterations would have imposed a 2 to 3 percent tax on household incomes over $250,000 a year.  Likewise, Oregon and Washington both have super-majority requirements for passing tax increases, both have an initiative and referendum process that would likely subject any tax increase to a vote of the people, and both faced similar sized deficits as a percentage of their overall budgets.

Yet Oregon Democrats chose to raise taxes to help soften devastating budget cuts—never a popular thing to do—while Washington Democrats refused to even seriously debate the option.  Huh.

I’m not sure how to explain the cultural differences between the Democratic caucuses in these two neighboring Northwest states, that leads one to legislate boldly in the interests of their constituents while the other remains timidly enthralled to the status quo. But I am increasingly becoming convinced that there is only one option available to Washington progressives who seek accountability and responsiveness from the Democratic legislators we work so hard to elect. And it’s a lesson, ironically, we may need to learn from Oregon’s Republicans.

The Oregon tax bills passed by 37-23 margin, just barely within the three-fifths majority necessary. But with one Dem voting nay, the measure would have failed without the support of two Republicans who crossed over to approve the measures.  And as Carla reports on Blue Oregon, such breaks in party discipline don’t sit well with Oregon Republicans who are now on the warpath against their two traitorous colleagues.

“I think they’ve left the team and it wouldn’t surprise me if they have strong opponents in the primary” next year, said Oregon Republican Chairman Bob Tiernan.

On top of that, Tiernan said it was “probably likely” that the state GOP would actually wind up helping defeat Smith and Jenson in next year’s party primary.

Tax activist Russ Walker, who heads the Oregon chapter of FreedomWorks and is vice chairman of the state GOP, has helped take out two Republican incumbents in past years who voted with Democrats in primary. Rep. Vic Backlund, R-Keizer, was beat in 2004 and Sen. Charles Starr, R-Hillsboro, lost in 2006.

“I swear to God they will not come back to this building,” said Walker. “Those guys are not reflecting the values of those who put them in those seats.”

Not that moving the state party even further to the right is the best electoral prescription for what ails Oregon Republicans, but from a Machiavellian perspective you gotta at least admire the GOP’s traditional enforcement of party discipline. Perhaps Greg Smith (R-Heppner) and Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton) believe their party is too weak at the moment to extract its usual revenge, or perhaps they truly care enough about education to risk the inevitable, but there’s a reason so few Republicans tend to cross the aisle on contentious votes, particularly those involving tax increases.

Democrats, on the other hand, we’re all over the place, which is partially due to the fact that we really are a big tent party (herding cats and all that), and partially due to the fact that progressives tend to be, by nature, substantially less vindictive than our counterparts on the right. Organized labor got absolutely screwed by Dems during Washington’s recent legislative session, but talk to them about their threats to withhold money from caucus committees and it’s like… you know… we’ll see how the 2010 session goes.

Way to hold their feet to the fire, guys.

The fact is, Democratic legislators, at least here in Washington state, simply aren’t afraid of disappointing the progressive base of the party because they know that there aren’t any consequences. Serious, well-financed Democratic primary challenges come less often than Seattle snowstorms, and they are never backed by the Party itself. Hell, we can’t even take out Sen. Tim Sheldon. So what does a Democratic incumbent have to fear?

I heard plenty of grumbling during the past session about conservative stances from swing district, suburban Democrats, or about the BIAW-toadying leadership of House Speaker Frank Chopp, but honestly, they’re not the main problem. Swing district Dems come from swing districts, and when averaged together, broadly tend to represent the often conflicting interests of their broad constituencies. And as Speaker, Chopp’s job is in fact to build and maintain a strong Democratic majority, a job he’s admittedly done efficiently, even if progressives like me have legitimate complaints about his failure to use it.

No, the legislators who have most let down the progressive base are generally those who hail from safe, Democratic and overwhelmingly progressive districts. You know, mostly Seattle and other largely urban strongholds. Whatever their values or their votes, as a block, they simply aren’t delivering, either within caucus deliberations or on the floor. And whether this failure is due to caution, competence or ideology, this block will continue to disappoint until we either replace them with legislators who are willing and able to effectively represent our interests, or the fear of such replacements forces them to step up their game to the next level.

Of course, our main focus should be on recruiting and supporting strong candidates in races for open seats—not the annointed or the same-old, same-old party faithful who would only deliver more of the same, and not the politics as usual kinda  single-issue advocates who so often fail to be effective on the broader progressive agenda. (One can’t help but admire Chopp’s passionate advocacy on behalf of affordable housing, but… well… you know.) No, what we need are smart, passionate, creative, fearlessly independent progressives, unbeholden to the party or any particular faction thereof, who are eager to use the safety their districts provide to pursue a broad and boldly progressive agenda.

You know, the kinda legislators who aren’t afraid to talk taxes regardless of how loudly the leadership yells “Shhhhhh!”

But… seats don’t open up all that often, so if we progressives really want our Democrats to be responsive to our needs, we need to primary a few of our own, and we need to do so with such an overwhelming show of force that future primary threats are taken damn seriously. When safe Democrats understand that they’re only safe from Republicans, perhaps they’ll start paying more than just lip service to our concerns.

This isn’t a tactic to which I’ve come lightly, and I fully understand the logistical and electoral challenge it represents. Way back in 2004 I ridiculed SEIU for failing to take out a little old lady in what I thought at the time was a misguided effort to primary Rep. Helen Sommers.  (But then, I also described Joni Balter as “one of Seattle’s more thoughtful and evenhanded political commentators,” so what did I know?) But a lot of things have changed since then, not the least of which being the near super-majorities Democrats have since won in both the House and the Senate.

With plenty of cushion and few opportunities for expansion, spending electoral resources primarying Dems in safe districts does not represent the same sort of politically self-destructive in-fighting it might during leaner times. Indeed, without a viable Republican opposition to pick off the weak links and keep Democrats on their toes, one can reasonably argue that we’re in desperate need of a little intramural competition to keep our party lean and fit. In politics as in other pursuits, combatants tend to rise to the level of the competition; the Republican caucus is currently in a woeful state, and the Democratic majority has arguably responded accordingly.

So while I know Frank, Lisa and others might not like my harsh prescription, they’ve done little to convince me it isn’t needed nonetheless.


  1. 1

    Michael spews:

    Pat Lantz served in the house for a long time, she’s from a swing district (26th), wasn’t exactly a centrist and didn’t lack in the “having a pair” department. Just because you’re in a swing district, doesn’t mean you automatically have to have centrist or washout electeds.

    That said, swing districts can’t play too huge of a role in our lack of leadership among our leaders because there isn’t that many of them.

    Frank, Lisa and The Gov have failed at being effective leaders and it’s time for them to get out of the way and let people who can lead do so.

  2. 2

    Michael spews:

    Um… I guess I should clarify that this is what I think we’re lacking:

    Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. A definition more inclusive of followers comes from Alan Keith of Genentech who said “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”


    I’m not talking about political ideology.

  3. 3

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Will be interesting to see the aftermath in Oregon….how the tax increase impacts business and tax revenue and jobs.
    More flight to Washington I suspect.
    They can drive across the border to avoid our nearly 10% sales tax and have the best of both worlds.
    Perhaps the Vancouver/Clark County real estate market will get a needed boost.

  4. 4

    Michael spews:

    We’re lacking this as well:

    A vision can be political, religious, environmental, social, or technological in nature. By extension, a visionary can also be a person with a clear, distinctive and specific (in some details) vision of the future, usually connected with advances in technology or social/political arrangements. For example, Ted Nelson is referred to as a visi

    onary in connection with the Internet[2].

  5. 5

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Puddy is absolutely right.
    Obama cranking up the money printing press is responsible for the dollar weakening…thus oil prices rising.
    Econ. 101–
    Too bad most of the KLOWNS failed to take that course and took Yoga instead!

  6. 6

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Business profits are DOWN.
    Layoffs are prevalent.
    Hey, I’ve got an idea…let’s print more money and raise taxes.

  7. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “On top of that, Tiernan said it was ‘probably likely’ that the state GOP would actually wind up helping defeat Smith and Jenson in next year’s party primary.”

    You can always count on the GOP to put party loyalty ahead of community, country, or the common good.

  8. 8

    countrygirl spews:

    “Of course, our main focus should be on recruiting and supporting strong candidates in races for open seats—not the annointed or the same-old, same-old party faithful who would only deliver more of the same, and not the politics as usual kinda single-issue advocates who so often fail to be effective on the broader progressive agenda.”

    I have to disagree with you regarding the “same-old party faithful” delivering more of the same. If you take a close look at the Ds in the legislature, you’ll find that some of the most progressive ARE the party activists. The more conservative are often recruited and backed by other organizations. It really is unfair to imply that because someone has been involved in party politics that they agree with the actions of the elected officials. Often you’ll find that they are the ones most vociferously opposing “bad” legislation. Additionally, you’ll find that when there’s a primary challenge to an incumbent that has been underperforming by progressive standards it is from a person who has been involved with the party. Both Alice Woldt and Juan Martinez come to mind. I’d be careful about criticizing people who try to work from the inside to improve the quality of elected Democrats if I was you…

  9. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 Maybe business would be better if the people who ran businesses thought more about supporting the communities where they do business and less about how to undermine the things that create a market and customer base.

  10. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @5 “Obama cranking up the money printing press is responsible for the dollar weakening”

    What a total crock of bullcrap from a lying goatfucker! Have you already forgotten that the dollar declined 40% on Bush’s watch?

  11. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @6 Well, holy shit, private businesses lay off 600,000 workers a month, month after month, and business is down?!! Who could’ve guessed?! Brilliant, Sherlock, positively brilliant!!!

  12. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World is the totally inability of conservatives to understand the connection between the incomes of workers and having customers for the goods and services they want to sell.

  13. 13

    GBS spews:

    Mr. troop hater cynical.

    What do you propose? More tax cuts? More deregulation?

    Let’s look at this issue through the prism of contemporary historical fact:

    In 1993 we were in a recession with record deficits and record national debt. Bush 41’s gift to President Clinton.

    President Clinton proposed raising taxes on the wealthy and to bring spending in line with revenue – payGO.

    The Republicans back then, made the same arguments you are making today. “No, no, no, no. It will make the economy worse.”

    8 years later in 2001, President Clinton’s gift to Bush 43 were record surpluses, a reduction in the national debt and the most robust economic growth in the history of mankind.

    Bush 43 implemented what you’re advocating; tax cuts for the Paris Hilton party debutantes types of the world and more deregulation to Wall St. with the promise of more jobs, no debt, and great prosperity.

    8 years later in 2009, you want to continue doing what created this fiscal disaster?

    Results! Mr. C. that’s the ONLY thing that counts in this debate. America has tried it the Ronald Reagan Republican way for nearly 30 years. The ONLY time the economy was good during that test period is when a Democrat was in control.

    Grow up and stop hating America because Liberals make it the place you’re proud to call home. Jerk.

    Why do you want to continue policies enacted by Republicans that caused America to nearly fail?

    What are your real motives for wanting America to fail?

  14. 14

    ivan spews:

    @ 8:

    I was with you until you mentioned Juan Martinez. Juan Martinez did not do jack shit in the Democratic Party before his ill-advised run against Margarita Prentice. He carpetbagged into the 11th District and rarely if ever showed his face at a District meeting.

    He wasn’t even at his own LD’s endorsement meeting. I know this because I was there, and I don’t even live in the 11th.

    This is the kind of candidate Goldy supports. That is why when Goldy speaks on this particular issue, which is about once a week — when he’s not performing necrophilia on the rotting corpse of the Seattle Times — he should be ignored.

    Goldy is all hat and no cattle on this issue. He never deigns to attend party meetings, where a lot of the heavy lifting gets done, and where he might gain some useful perspective. Instead, he wraps himself in his little hipster circle jerk cocoon, which helps him reinforce his fantasies.

    Goldy doesn’t canvass, phone bank, or raise money (except for himself and his loser buddy Josh). He just sits behing his terminal and pontificates to the rest of us hoi polloi about how stupid we are for not being “progressive” enough to do what Goldy tells us to do.

    Run along and play now, Goldy. Maybe you can come up with another fringe no-hoper for us to ridicule soon.

  15. 15

    Chris Stefan spews:

    Be that as it may you can’t deny the party needs a little shaking up. All to often those in safe seats are cautious and craven or only really care about their pet issue. The longer they are in office typically the worse they are rather than rising to senior status and leadership positions emboldening them.
    Frankly there is a lack of political leadership from elected officials and wannabe elected officials in this state especially on the center to left end of the political spectrum.
    Sure Goldy would be a little more credible if he was more active in the 37th district democrats and participated in district phone bank, canvasing, and fundrasing efforts. However that doesn’t mean he isn’t bringing up a valid point.

  16. 16

    Ghengis Khan spews:

    You say they don’t got no balls but YOU don’t got no balls because you don’t name names that ought to be taken out.

    Go ahead and name names.

  17. 17


    countrygirl @8,

    I meant “same-old, same-old” to modify “party faithful,” and did not mean to imply that all party faithful are same-old, same-old. But I can see how it reads that way. I guess the editorialists at the Times aren’t the only ways who occasionally suffer from lack of clarity.

  18. 18


    ivan @14,

    I was signed up to take the PCO training class back in 2005 I believe, but made the decision to stay out of party politics when I realized I could have more impact as a blogger, and more credibility by maintaining some independence.

    That said, I’ve done a helluva lot for the party and its candidates through my muckraking and advocacy, and don’t feel the need to repeat the litany of my accomplishments here. You can call it a circle jerk if you want, but I don’t think there are many party activists who have worked harder for the larger cause, unpaid, and who have had more impact on more races.

  19. 19

    sherrold spews:

    Name names, Goldy. Who should we be supporting; who should we be looking for primary opponents for?

    The whole reason we read you is because you know the players better than we do — so let us know!

  20. 20

    ivan spews:

    Goldy @ 18 says:

    but I don’t think there are many party activists who have worked harder for the larger cause, unpaid, and who have had more impact on more races.

    Goldy, your hubris is as appalling as your cluelessness is. I can name dozens of unpaid party activists who have worked harder than you have and who have had more impact on more races.

    You do just fine in certain areas, when you do some original reporting. But you’re lazy, and you need to get out more, and generate more original content based on *your* experience, and quit repeating the same old tired themes.

  21. 21

    countrygirl spews:

    Goldy @ 17

    I think the difficulty is in the definition of “party faithful”. Indeed, everybody is going to have their own way to define what is a “Democrat” or even “progressive”. Apparently my definition differs fro Ivan’s in that regard.

    I’m sure Frank would call himself a “progressive” but you and I wouldn’t, and Brendan wouldn’t.

    What’s really wrong with calling yourself a good, old-fashioned liberal anyway?

  22. 22

    Ghengis Khan spews:

    The ultimate test of course is running for offfice yourself.

    It’s pretty easy to offer advice and not get in the arena.

    And no, blogging isn’t being in the arena.

  23. 23

    Lauramae spews:

    Seems some of the party good old boys don’t care for being called what they are: The Jr League. EAT YOUR DEMO BURGER. I won’t.

  24. 24

    Lex Talionis spews:

    Most people realize they need to get off their asses and be a productive member of society to get ahead in life, but not our boy Goldy. He’d rather subsidize his fucking lazy ass off the laboring backs of workers in life who’ve actually put in the time and earned some wealth and have supplied the jobs in the community (i.e. corporations).

    You’re a lazy piece of shit goldy, honestly. How you can look your daughter in the eye knowing this reality is beyond me.

  25. 25


    ivan @20,

    Yeah, you’re right, the only work that really counts is doorbelling and phonebanking and sitting through LD meetings. My bad.

    And I guess I’m sorry for questioning incumbent Democrats. The recent session… that was pretty much the best we could have expected. We should all just be satisfied with that.

    How arrogant of me to question the experts. I should just be a loyal Democrat and vote for who I’m told to vote.

  26. 27

    ivan spews:

    No, Goldy, you should get out more, and meet and talk to a wider variety of people, and get yourself a wider range of experiences that would better inform your opinions and widen the scope of your blogging efforts.

    I mean, have you ever sat down in person with Frank Chopp or Margarita Prentice and asked them to explain to you their take on what is going on in Olympia? When is the last time you have *been* to Olympia?

    Cut the crap. I’m not telling you who to vote for. You want to waste your time talking about bringing down Frank Chopp or Margarita Prentice, hey, knock yourself out. Democrats who are — unlike you — out in the field know that some — not all, but some — of the shit you spin is just from la-la-land, and wonder why that is so.

    We’re trying to give you some tough love, Goldy, and trying to help you be a better blogger, and you’re too full of yourself and too defensive to get it.

  27. 29

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    ivan spews:

    Goldy is all hat and no cattle on this issue. He never deigns to attend party meetings, where a lot of the heavy lifting gets done, and where he might gain some useful perspective. Instead, he wraps himself in his little hipster circle jerk cocoon, which helps him reinforce his fantasies.

    Gosh ivan…YOU NAILED IT!@!
    Can you imagine the chaos if someone like Goldy were “in charge”??

  28. 30

    Budget Wonk spews:

    Interesting how this string simply turned into an attack on Goldy rather than address the very important concept he attempts to explore. A recent article in the Economist (that must read journal for all of us on the left) made the case that we in Washington organize our elections to yield these moderate results.

    So, Goldy perhaps you’re on to something and the left needs to use the top two primary to pull incumbent Democrats away from the middle of the road. And, oh by the way, with another legislative session to go before the 2010 election you should expect labor to play it coy. Its not in their strategic interest to do anything else. But in the end, don’t underestimate their anger with the current leadership in Olympia.

  29. 31

    Budget Wonk spews:

    Okay, I’m inept at putting a link into my “spew.” However, if you click on my second paragraph (#30) it takes you to the Economist article link I’d thought I’d embedded between the paragraphs.

  30. 33

    ivan spews:

    And there’s more yet, Goldy. Now that I know who countrygirl @ 8 and @ 21 is, I can tell you authoritatively that she has been active in campaign work, fundraising, party building, work for her union, and for the labor movement in general, in the five years I have known her and worked with her, in at least five counties that I know of. Her reach extends statewide.

    countrygirl does more in any one week to affect political races then mouse-click activists like you do in months. If you got out more, you’d realize this, and you would quit trying to misrepresent your place in the grand scheme of things to people who know better.

  31. 34


    ivan @33,

    Again, you’re right… all you folks “know better.” So since I’m not making much of contribution, I should just quit the blogging, cash in as best I can, and make a decent living for change. You know, instead of lazily sitting around the house writing all day.

    That way you can celebrate the Democratic triumph this past session represents.

  32. 35

    ivan spews:

    Goldy @ 34:

    Do I have to explain it again to you, as if you were a five-year-old? Nobody wants you to quit blogging. Your problem is that you have hit the wall and are becoming tiresome and less effective, because you keep repeating the same shit over and over again, with no fresh material, and no new information to bring to your argument.

    You need to get out more and broaden your perspective, so that your wider experience and broadened relationships might bring you some new insights.

    I mean, have you ever sat down for an hour with Sharon Tomiko Santos, and asked her why she votes for payday lenders? She’s your state rep. She works for you. Have you sat down with Eric Pettigrew and asked him why he supports charter schools? He’s your state rep. He works for you.

    They’re not MY state reps, but I have talked to them, and plenty of others. I know where they are coming from, even if I do not share their positions.

    To the best of my knowledge, you don’t do any of this. If you did, you’d blog about it, wouldn’t you?

    Some of us “know better” because WE DO THE FUCKING SCUT WORK — and we do it on our own god damn dime. But YOU can’t be bothered to do what we do, because you’re “Mr. Netroots,” and you’re on the new media cutting edge of political activism. And if anyone doubts that, they can just ask you, can’t they?

    There are 49 Legislative Districts in Washington. Of those, only seven contain precincts within the Seattle City limits. Of those seven, the 11th, the 32nd, the 34th, and the 37th also contain precincts in other cities and/or unincorporated areas. So only the 36th, 43rd, and 46th lie entirely inside the Seattle city limits and represent no competing or diverging interests among their constituencies.

    So you tell me, Goldy. What is that representational makeup expected to accomplish in a Legislature that is apportioned on the basis of population? Matt Shea, from the 4th LD in the northeastern corner of the state, arguably the most right-wing fanatic in the House, represents as many people as Sharon Nelson does in the 34th.

    It’s very difficult to take seriously any naive blogger who expects the Seattle delegation to be able to work its will on the rest of the Legislature in light of those most basic facts.

    Voters in outlying areas, even staunch Democratic voters, don’t necessarily like Seattle, don’t want to do Seattle any favors, and will invariably reward legislators, even Democratic legislators, who favor their own constituents at Seattle’s expense.

    Why should they change? Why shouldn’t they want their slice of the pie? Why haven’t you grasped this yet? This is Political Science 101. It is no wonder your expectations are so out of whack.