Oregon’s Voters Embrace California’s Policies

Oregon’s voters supported big increases on state individual income tax and corporate income taxes in the vote-by-mail election that ended Tuesday. Results were 54-46 percent on Ballot Measure 66, the individual income tax, and 53-47 percent on Ballot Measure 67, the corporate tax. (For results, see Oregon Secretary of State, Elections Division.)

The Wall Street Journal page laid out the campaign dynamic in a Jan. 15 editorial, “Oregon at the Tax Crossroad.

The public unions are the primary drivers behind the Oregon tax hike campaign. In recent weeks, national powerhouses AFSCME and the SEIU have poured close to $1 million into the state campaign to secure passage. Oregon’s public employees have one of the sweetest deals in America. Their average pay is about one-third higher than that of private Oregon workers, and Oregon public employees don’t have to pay anything toward their health-care benefits.

In the last budget, the Democratic controlled state legislature doled out a $259 million pay raise to the government work force, even as the state was facing a near $1 billion deficit. In the last three years, the state has added 25,000 new public employees while losing 40,000 private sector jobs. The union TV ads say the tax hikes are needed to preserve schools, roads and public services.

The Journal, perhaps anticipating the yes votes, noted the value of states as the “laboratories of democracy.” But this experiment has already been run. In raising taxes to protect the public employee unions, Oregon’s voters have followed the California model of governance and taxation. And look how well that’s turned out: California has lost 600,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, 32 percent of the state’s manufacturing workforce.

Oregon’s unemployment rate is 11 percent, by the way.

Back in the ’60s, anti-growth Gov. Tom McCall famously told Californians to come and visit, but not to stay. Now Oregon’s voters have sent their own version of the message: California’s policies are welcome, it’s the jobs we’re telling to leave.

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