© 2022 Tootie Smith for Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

My Record on Taxes and Spending

One of the biggest reasons I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners is the continued fiscal irresponsibility being shown by that body. I strongly feel that the county is on the wrong track when it comes to taxing and spending, and I am determined to fix it.

Throughout my years of public service, I’ve faced many difficult budgetary decisions. But I was always able to find a way to balance budgets and leave them in better shape than I found them.

I served in the Oregon House of Representatives from 2001 to 2005. That stint in the Legislature included holding the position of Deputy Majority Leader and being a member of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee.

The nation was still in the grips of recession, and the state budget was in terrible shape. Revenues flowing into state coffers were declining. Many of my legislative colleagues said that the only way to balance the budget was to raise taxes.

However, I knew that people were struggling as they yet to experience any sort of economic recovery. I also believed strongly that raising their tax burden would make life harder for them, their families and businesses throughout the state.

Along with my colleagues, I set forth to identify and prioritize key services. We also cut any spending that we felt was wasteful and unnecessary. Despite the challenges involved, we balanced the budget without raising taxes.

I inherited a similar situation when first elected to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners in November 2012. America was still coming out of its worst economy in nearly 100 years, since the Great Depression.

Even though there was constant pressure to raise taxes and fees, I listened to the county residents who were my constituents and found a way to balance the budget. In fact, the county’s budget had a surplus by the time my four-year term ended in January 2017.

So how has the county faired since then? Not nearly as well.

There is no doubt that the national economy is now much better than it was when I served in the Legislature and the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. The state of Oregon has experienced record revenues for years and so has Clackamas County.

However, the county has experienced a $20 million deficit over the past two years. Its financial situation has gotten so dire that Sheriff Craig Roberts has public called for an audit of the county’s funds.

To make matters worse, commissioners voted to increase residents’ vehicle registration fees. I successfully lead the charge to fight back against similar vehicle registration fee increases when I served on the Board of Commissioners.

The current Clackamas County Commissioners and its Chair Jim Bernard aren’t content to let it stop there. They’re also supporting more bonds and taxes for Metro, an agency with a very poor track record when it comes to spending the public’s money.

Rather than hold Metro accountable, Jim Bernard and the commissioners are putting you on the hook for more multi-billion dollar mistakes.

Your choice in the upcoming Clackamas County Commissioner chair’s race couldn’t be clearer. I am proud to stand behind my record of balanced budgets and sound financial management. My top priority was always to make sure that your hard-earned tax dollars were spent wisely and responsibly, at both the state and county level.

Jim Bernard has demonstrated time and again that he considers your pocketbook a source for bailouts for bungling bureaucrats and their billion-dollar boondoggles.

As the next chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I will work tirelessly to ensure that the county’s budget is not balanced on your back through unnecessary tax and fee increases.

Why the New Clackamas County Courthouse Would be a Horrific Waste of Tax-Dollars

The current Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has announced its plans to build a new courthouse. There are many reasons I am opposed to this horrific waste of taxpayer dollars.

For one, polling has shown that 78 percent of county voters are against paying more taxes for a new courthouse facility. That, in and of itself, should be enough of a reason to oppose it.

The new courthouse comes with an estimated cost of $230 million. Those costs would be paid by county residents who are already feeling the impacts of $9 billion in new taxes from the 2019 legislative session and the county’s increased vehicle registration fee. Those layers of taxation don’t even include the multiple tax increases being pursued by Metro.

These increases are all being sought simultaneously by multiple layers of government, from the county, Metro and the State of Oregon, regardless of the ability of the average person to continue paying for it. Even if Clackamas County residents are seeing wage increases, they are quickly eaten up by the spending demands of county and state bureaucrats. All of these tax increases contribute to the Portland area’s skyrocketing cost of living.

To fund this unnecessary courthouse project, Clackamas County Board of Commissioners Chair Jim Bernard and his cohorts want to impose an additional 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on property taxes. What this means is that a homeowner whose property is valued at $350,000 will pay $595 more in property taxes every year. It also means that housing will become less affordable for everybody living in the county.

The fact of the matter is, county residents are concerned about traffic congestion, excessive government taxing and spending and homelessness. Having a nice, new enough courthouse does not rank anywhere on their lists of priorities.

A better, less cost option would be to consider leasing existing retail spaces that are presently unoccupied or otherwise abandoned. That would keep property on the tax rolls in perpetuity and require much less in the way of taxes from citizens.

Voters are growing increasingly angry over continued taxation as the only solution to solving problems. They want leaders who will listen and who can think outside the box. I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners because my track record of public service proves my willingness to lead on these issues.

Looking at our problems with a new lens won’t cost money. But the cost of continuing down the path of more taxing and more spending is disastrous. I’m more than happy to provide an alternative to the status quo and its constant attempts to separate you from your hard-earned tax dollars.

My Approach to Taxing and Spending

Politicians often scoff at the idea that government agencies should budget the way that businesses and households do. We’ve seen the disastrous consequences of that approach at every level of government, from the trillions of dollars of federal debt right down to the local level here in Clackamas County.

Think about the way you balance your checkbook every month. You know how much you have coming in through your paycheck and other sources of income. Many expenses like rent are fixed. Others, like utility bills, vary from month to month. But you put together your household budget based on what your income and expenses are.

The government tends to do the exact opposite.

Too often, the approach in government is to put together a wish list of what politicians and bureaucrats want, then declare a budget crisis when the tax dollars coming in don’t reach whatever lofty amount they set for their priorities. That so-called budget crisis is then used to justify more taxes and fees coming out of your pocket. The end result is that it becomes more difficult for you to balance your checkbook and pay your bills every month.

However, the strain on your pocketbook is only an afterthought to politicians and bureaucrats who forget that the funds they spend so freely come from you, the hardworking taxpayer. Consequentially, they spend the money in ways that you, as a responsible individual, would never think to do. Remember—politicians don’t care how much money they spend or what they spend it on, because it isn’t their money. It’s yours.

Can you imagine if a business was run this way? It would keep raising the costs of goods and services on customers, who would then take their business elsewhere. That business would have no choice but to close its doors.

As chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, I intend to take a common-sense approach to managing tax dollars responsibly. Any decisions made about taxing and spending will be done with the understanding that these resources come out of the pockets of working people like you and need to go towards providing the critical services you expect to receive.

I stand firm against reckless and irresponsible spending and have always insisted that government should live within its means, the same way that we do as individuals, households and business owners.