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Which Is the Monster? Tax limitations, or the taxes they limit

A City Club of Portland research panel has concluded that property tax limitation Ballot Measures 5, 47, and 50 have created a “Frankentax” monster that is “slowly but surely wreaking havoc upon its creators and their communities in ways they might not yet realize.”

Before we buy such arguments and repeal these taxpayer protections, let’s see what good has come from limiting property taxes:

So-called government revenue “losses” from property tax limitations are also “gains” to taxpayers who pay less than they otherwise would―in some cases enough less to keep from losing their homes.

Before Measure 5 was enacted in 1991, as a percentage of our income, Oregonians had on average the 5th highest property tax burden among all states. In 2010, that burden had dropped to 20th.*  In the first ten years Measure 5 was in effect, Oregonians saved over $5 billion.**

An Oregonian editorial about the City Club report points out: “The monster metaphor is worth pursuing because the perception of monstrosity goes both ways.” “Voters approved Measures 5 and 47/50, creating a ‘Frankentax’ system, because they wanted to protect themselves from a government-friendly system that behaved like The Blob, always consuming and expanding. The system that exists now, for all its faults, is designed to protect taxpayers at the expense of government, not government at the expense of taxpayers.”

Knowing the father of Measure 5, the late Don McIntire, as I did, I’m confident he would relish the opportunity to engage those who want to kill his creation. Far from being a Frankenstein, Don was one of the taxpayer’s best friends.

* “2013 Public Finance: Basic Facts,” Legislative Revenue Office,         http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/lro/Documents/2013BasicFacts.pdf

** “Halfway There: Measure 5 and the Road Ahead, Jamie Voykto, Cascade Policy Institute, December, 2003, http://cascadepolicy.org/pdf/fiscal/I_126.pdf

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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