Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Signs of change

Update: Oregonian writer/associate editor David Sarasohn had an interesting column in Sunday's paper observing that the voting on the two tax-increase measures did not follow the usual demographic of solidly opposed throughout the state and solidly in favor in Multnomah County (the Portland area). In this case the non-Multnomah County votes were opposed by a slim margin on one measure, and I think actually in favor on the other.
Something very surprising happened yesterday: voters in Oregon passed two tax increases, upholding action by the State Legislature, raising 750 million dollars in order to balance the state budget without further cuts.

The two ballot measures passed by solid margins, along the lines of 55% to 45%. I have lived in Oregon for 30 years and I expected both measures to fail. The normal way it works around here is:

slightly progressive bill has early support

corporate money runs scare-add campaign

bill narrowly or solidly defeated

This time the same script was followed but with different results. I should say that these tax increases were in my opinion quite modest and no great hardship, and that significant cuts to state spending were made to complement the added tax. To me this seemed fair, and I view it as a reasonable adjustment of financial burden. I should also disclose that I work for the state and that I do not have to pay either of the taxes. I have a friend with a small business who is affected, and he still voted for them.

So what was different this time? As I said, based on past experience I had little hope that these would go through. My answer: I think the electorate is willing to hear some new ideas, and with high unemployment in Oregon, a little more desperate than in the past. They don't want state services further slashed because many more of them now depend on those services.

Let me also point out that what happened in Oregon is pretty much the opposite of what happened in Massachusetts when Scott Brown defeated the Democratic candidate for Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat.

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