Posted by: bkivey | 5 November 2016

Measure 97

The hot button issue in Oregon this election is Measure 97. The measure would levy a new tax on C Corporations doing business in the state greater than $25 million annually. The measure is a ballot initiative, and while ballot initiatives sound good in theory, in practice they’ve become a way for legislators to avoid responsibility for the bill’s effects. I certainly don’t want to abolish the practice, but the Oregon Legislature has become particularly adept at foisting off unpopular legislation as initiatives sponsored by tame ‘independent’ groups.

If passed the measure is projected to add $1.5 billion annually to the Treasury. That’s not chump change, even by US standards. And certainly not by Oregon standards, as the revenue increase is about 5% of the biennial budget. One could make the argument that if you’re a middle-to-large business you’re being told to pay a head tax on every Oregon citizen for the privilege of doing business in the state.

Proponents argue that the legislation is written in such a way that the money can only be spent on education, healthcare, and senior services. Stipulating that this is true, it’s only true as far as I can toss a caber. Sure as God made little green apples, that money will be used to fund PERS.

The Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) is the Oregon government pension plan. Years ago the state government made a sweetheart deal with its employees guaranteeing generous pensions for relatively little contribution on the employee’s part. The pension funding is predicated on an investment return of 10.5% annually. That hasn’t happened. The Legislature tried to adjust the fund’s financial workings, but the Oregon Supreme Court threw most of those out in 2013. Now the State faces an unfunded pension liability approaching $20 billion. Apparently a public contract is a suicide pact.

Oregonian reporter Ted Sickenger wrote an article in November 2015 giving a nice analysis of the problem. The bottom line is that Oregon government needs a lot of money, and they need it now. These things tend to happen when governments use other people’s money to buy votes. Maintaining dependent power bases is expensive.

Proponents claim that businesses can’t pass along the cost, but if you go to a pro-97 Q & A, it’s never explained exactly why this can’t happen. Of course costs will be passed along. Measure 97 is the VAT-which-cannot-be-named. The referenced website, by the way, is a master class in gobbledygook.

Aside from a naked we-don’t-care-anymore power grab by government, the way in which Measure 97 is presented is disgusting. The whole pitch is that government needs money to provide the services Oregonian’s want. One ad’s tagline is ‘Oregonian’s deserve better education and healthcare’. But they shouldn’t have to pay for it. Leave that to the big out-of-state corporations. The idea that it’s acceptable to force others to pay for things you want is offensive to the responsible person. But that’s the world we live in, and it’s not only government perpetuating this immaturity. Every time a city taxes hotel, rental car and restaurant sales to pay for a new stadium, it’s the same mind-set.

Oregon Governor’s Race

Governor of a US state is a high-profile position and the occupant is the ‘face’ of the state. Even in the smaller states a Governor with leadership ability can wield a lot of power. This year in Oregon we’re electing a Governor to serve out ousted Governor john Kitzhaber’s term. The job devolved upon Secretary of State Kate Brown when Kitzhaber resigned, and now she has to stand for election.

It is about the lowest-key race for the top job imaginable. I actually had to look up the race to find out who Brown was facing. The Democrat campaign for Brown has been soft-selling her, while her challenger has been near invisible.

Brown has been in office for about a year and a half, and her leadership style could be described as ‘withdrawn’. Legislators from both sides of the aisle complain that they can’t get her to commit on legislation, and people from her own party are frustrated with her lack of leadership. Her main claim to fame appears to be that she’s openly bisexual, which isn’t really enough to run a campaign on. Her ads all seem to be some variation of ‘Well, she’s here. May as well keep her.’

2016 World Series

Was that great, or what? Baseball is the best game, and the playoffs and the Series were everything a fan could want. Other than the fact the Giants went out early and easily. But the Cubs looked like the holders of the best record in MLB, and the Giants looked like a wild card team.

There was a lot to enjoy in the post-season. Clutch hits, spectacular defense, seemingly inhuman reaction times. Watching Toronto come into Cleveland swinging hot bats, then getting shut right down by Indian’s pitching. A pitching staff with two Cy Young winners. Pitching was the theme in the playoffs, and there were sweet pitching duels in both League Championship Series. Watching the best is always a pleasure, and as the post-season progressed each pitch, each at-bat, each defensive alignment meant more.

And then we were treated to every baseball fans dream: the two teams with the longest championship drought going to a World Series Game 7. I made damned sure I was off work in time to watch, as did apparently 40 million others. I rooted for the Cubs, because if my team doesn’t make it, I go with the National League. You know, the league that still plays baseball as handed down by Doubleday.

So congratulations to the City of Chicago and long, long-suffering Cubs fans everywhere. But mostly, congratulations to the Cubs for taking the billy goat yard.

 

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