Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don't Californicate Oregon

Tom McCall, a progressive Republican environmentalist, served as Governor of Oregon from 1967 to 1985. He was highly effective, and in a TV interview uttered the famous remarks: “Come visit us again and again. This is a state of excitement. But for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live.” The statement was directed at neighboring Californians.

Bumper stickers soon appeared “Don’t Californicate Oregon.” The sentiments spread to Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, and Washington. None wanted the seemingly mindless, inexorable sprawl of Southern California.

We should know by tomorrow if Oregon is adopting the worse of California: high taxes to subsidize public employee unions.

Voting by mail closes today on a seemingly “Tax the Rich” referendum. Income tax rates would go up 2% on high earners, tying Oregon with Hawaii for the highest personal income tax rates in the nation, exceeding even California’s. Corporate tax rates will also rise. The rich are defined as couples earning over $250,000 and individuals $125,000. Washington State has no income tax. Do the math.

Oregon has lost 131,000 private sector jobs in this recession. Instead of trying to improve the state’s economy, the public sector unions wish to suck money out of the private sector to support government employees. The Oregon Education Association has contributed $1.65 million to the campaign while other public employee unions within Oregon and nationally have chipped in an additional $1 million.

Oregon is a beautiful state, but persons of money find beauty elsewhere by voting with their feet. That is happening in California at an accelerating rate.

Students at the University of Oregon a few years ago urged a boycott of Nike products because of alleged sweatshop conditions in Nike’s overseas factories. The largest financial benefactor of the University is Phil Knight. He simply stated that if the boycott went forward, then he would reconsider his generosity for the University. The boycott failed.

Phil Knight has joined small businesses and other entrepreneurs in opposing the tax increases.

The voters, who rejected tax increases in the past, may approve these, based upon a campaign of class warfare, populism, and demagoguery, but these increases would constitute economics ignorance.

Oregon should look to Texas, rather than California or Hawaii, as its model. Texas had 43 companies among the Fortune 500 in 2000. By adhering to its no income tax policy, and encouraging business, it now has 64 corporations in the Fortune 500.

Oregon would have high income taxes and rain. Texas has no income taxes and sun. Oregon has two corporations in the Fortune 500, but risks losing one of them, Nike. It’s already lost much of its historic mainstay timber industry. The glow may be off the Portland Rose.

Please don’t Californicate the wonderful state of Oregon.

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