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So Far, "Stimulating" Discussion on Economy Leaves Out Most Oregonians

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 By Chris ThomasContact
January 23, 2008

Silverton, OR – All the news about a looming recession is giving new urgency to the work of a task force here in Oregon, charged with overhauling the state tax system. Its members meet again tomorrow in Salem, and one of the ideas on the table is to reduce or eliminate the state income tax on capital gains from investments.

However, a new analysis by the Oregon Center for Public Policy shows such a move would not stimulate economic growth. In fact, report author Mike Leachman says, it would do nothing for most Oregonians -- and help the wealthiest investors.

"These folks at the very top of the income scale have already benefited much more than the rest of us from the last generation of economic growth. Inequality has risen quite a bit in Oregon over the last generation, and this would just exacerbate that trend."

Supporters of cutting the capital gains tax say investors could use the additional income to expand businesses and create jobs. Leachman counters that the problem in Oregon is not lack of growth, but the growing income disparity between rich and poor in the state. Leachman says it's a tax cut idea that comes up often. He's convinced the state should be saving for the future, instead of giving back more money to Oregon's upper class.

"Well, a more intelligent alternative for the task force would be building a tax system in Oregon that's stable, that we have reserves that are really capable of protecting state services that people depend on when recessions hit."

Leachman says Oregon has about two percent of its budget in savings. The Center's analysis suggests savings of 20 percent would be needed to see the state through a recession like the last one, in 2001. The "Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring" task force will make its recommendations to the 2009 Legislature.

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