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Everyone is aware of the immediate impacts of the coronavirus, with regular news reports on the numbers of infections, deaths, product shortages, closures and restrictions on peoples’ daily activities. But much less obvious are its short and long-term impacts on the economy, businesses, household finances and government budgets.

It’s always been my philosophy that government budgets should more closely resemble those of individual taxpayers. These basic principles include the belief that we need to live within our means, avoid incurring unnecessary debt and put money aside in good times in preparation for a rainy day.

All indications are that the politicians and bureaucrats currently running the State of Oregon and Clackamas County have ignored those principles. The price that will be paid as a result is staggering.

Because Oregon does not have a sales tax, the state relies heavily on an income tax. That is one of the reasons that the state is usually one of the first affected by national recessions and also one of the last to recover. It stands to reason that if people lose their jobs, they’re going to have a difficult time paying income taxes.

Local governments tend to be funded through property taxes. The constant pressure to increase those taxes and add layers of levies and bonds is a huge contributing factor to the high cost of housing in Oregon. This is despite the fact that the state’s voters passed a ballot measure in the 1990s to limit property tax increases.

The Great Recession that started in late 2008 should have taught important lessons about the need to budget prudently. But it would appear that officials in state and county government failed to learn those lessons, and instead kept assuming that record revenues would roll into their coffers uninterrupted.

These new realities are now becoming impossible to ignore.

This recent Oregonian article details a recent legislative hearing, in which the governor’s chief of staff told lawmakers they will need to be cautious about how they spend money because Oregon could be headed into a long and deep economic downtown.

That same legislative body passed some of the largest increases in the state’s history during its 2019 regular session, despite several consecutive years of record revenue. The current state budget stands at a whopping $83 billion. Divided by the state’s four million residents, that is over $20,000 per man, woman and child in Oregon.

At the local level, I’ve been sounding the alarm about Clackamas County’s deficit budget situation since August. The county has received $1.2 billion in revenues for its all funds budget, which is also a record. However, a culture of mismanagement and lack of prudent planning and proper prioritization have combined to produce an $8 million deficit.

What will Oregon state and Clackamas County officials do once the coronavirus impacts on their budgets become obvious? Will they take the proper steps to end wasteful spending? I seriously doubt it.

Some state lawmakers are always quick to blame the state’s lack of a sales tax for the fact that there never seems to be enough revenue to match their appetites for spending. The aforementioned article even quotes one lawmaker as decrying the federal tax cuts that have put more money in the pockets of families and business owners.

The current Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has expressed support for multiple other taxing and spending measures, including the costly construction of a new courthouse that is opposed by most of the county’s voters.

These troubling times and circumstances require common sense leadership. During my service in the Oregon House of Representatives, I helped balance the budget in the aftermath of a recession without raising taxes. Similarly, I left Clackamas County with a budget surplus in my four-year term as commissioner.

The politicians currently in charge chose to spend money freely during good economic times, instead of preparing for the eventual downturn that is now upon us. I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners because I think we need to get back on the right track, without balancing the budget on your back.

Nik Blosser, Governor Brown’s chief of staff, said lawmakers should be cautious in how they spend money from the state budget because Oregon could be headed into a long and deep economic downturn. The likely economic fallout from coronavirus related shutdowns across the country.

This action comes on the heels of some of the largest tax increases from the 2019 legislature in memory. The state budget is also one of the richest since statehood at $83 billion.
Lack of a sales tax and President Trump’s federal tax cuts were blamed by some lawmakers as the culprits.

mas County was in a $8 million deficit while revenues came in at a record $1.2 billion all-funds budget.

Nik Blosser, Governor Brown’s chief of staff, said lawmakers should be cautious in how they spend money from the state budget because Oregon could be headed into a long and deep economic downturn. The likely economic fallout from coronavirus related shutdowns across the country.

This action comes on the heels of some of the largest tax increases from the 2019 legislature in memory. The state budget is also one of the richest since statehood at $83 billion.
Lack of a sales tax and President Trump’s federal tax cuts were blamed by some lawmakers as the culprits.

  1. Dan Whitmore says:

    Some excellent points Tootie. Now if only people will open their eyes and shut their ears to the BS some of the County and State burecrats spew when seeking reelection.

  2. Barb E says:

    I agree that a sales tax is needed. But the Property Tax MUST BE DISSOLVED . This burden on our backs is enormous. What is even better is a National Sales Tax of 2%, where everything that is sold has this. Get rid of all taxes other than this. It’s only complicated by the fact that there will non compliance across the grid.

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