May 8, 2008

Gresham's Warr-King Proposes East County Sales Tax

Today's Metro East section of the Oregonian has a story about the City of Gresham's financial squeeze. According to the article, Gresham financial analysts project a $3.8 million gap between income and expenses by 2011-2012. The city's percentage of property tax going to their general fund has decreased from 56% to 51% from 1997 to 2008. And Gresham's voters have rejected 13 out of 15 money measures since 1990.

Because of this financial strain, Gresham city councilor Paul Warr-King told the Oregonian he'd consider proposing a "1 percent sales tax, provided leaders in neighboring Troutdale, Wood Village and Fairview also embraced such a tax".

I know and respect councilor Warr-King. When it comes to finances, no one is better qualified. But a sales tax in Troutdale or anywhere else?

Let's take a look at what happened in Wood Village after its City Council proposed a sales tax in 2006. Wood Village residents were so opposed to the idea of a sales tax that they passed a City Charter amendment, Measure 26-76, with an 84% yes vote, that requires the City Council to refer any ordinance creating a new tax or increasing an existing tax to the voters.

Wood Village voter response to a sales tax matches the longstanding opposition by Oregon voters to a sales tax, who have rejected the idea nine times. The last time Oregon voters were asked to approve a sales tax? 1993. The result? 72% voted NO.

I don't have an answer to the budget squeeze facing Gresham or any other city in Oregon. But Oregon's voters have closed, barricaded, locked and nailed shut the door on a sales tax.

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