Thursday, August 20, 2009

You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in... 60 years.

In response to the same sort of budget shortfalls plaguing most other states this July the Oregon legislature passed a $700 million dollar tax increase which was signed by Governor Kulongoski. The first was an increase in the state income tax by a couple of points on single filers making over $150,000 and joint filers making over $250,000. The second was an increase in the corporate minimum tax which has remained at $10 since the 1930s. The state raised that tax to a whopping $150 dollars.

Predictably the state's conservatives went nuts. Kevin Mannix, who is one of the resident Oregon gadflies that makes a living through abusing the initiative process, jumped into the fray.

Mannix usually focuses on "public safety" initiatives but really he's just your standard right wing anti-government crank who'll take up any cause that will hurt the state. Within just a few hours of the governor signing this bill Mannix had initiative signature gatherers on the streets in an effort to have voters overturn these increases.

I was accosted by one of these signature gatherers on my way into our historic Multnomah county library the day after the bill passed. He asked me if I wanted to "help turn back the governor's tax increase on small business." What followed was a minor kerfuffle between us.

I confirmed that he was paid to gather signatures and not a volunteer, but he told me he would volunteering anyway because this was a "good measure." I asked him how he thought a tax increase of $140 bucks was going to hurt small businesses and he countered that I must of never had to struggle running a small business. I pointed out that even with the tax increases the state was facing huge budget cuts and wondered if he'd been following what had been happening in California. He hadn't.

The conversation ended with him letting me know that I "didn't get it" and me telling him he should be ashamed trying to gather signatures for a measure in front of a public building that more than likely would be shut down if that initiative passed. I told myself as I went into the library that at least I'd wasted his time and maybe prevented him from actually collecting a signature or two while we argued.

A few days later Mrs. Wormer and I were walking into a Dollar Tree and another one of these clowns stepped in front of me.

"Would you like to help us stop the governor's tax increase on small businesses?" he asked.

"Go fuck yourself," I told him.

As Mrs. Wormer squeezed my hand and hurried me into the store all the guy could say was "wow."

Wow indeed.