A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Governor: Tax hikes for seniors?

Written January 15th, 2013 by
The "circuit rider" outside the Capitol never gets anywhere. May the Legislative Assembly do better than that.

The “circuit rider” outside the Capitol never gets anywhere. May the Legislative Assembly do better than that.

Governor John Kitzhaber’s message to the legislature on Jan. 14 sounded a hopeful tone, as these messages should. But he was short on actual recommendations, more than once saying only that this or that issue “needs thoughtful deliberation.”

For example, he said the state must continue to work to generate more jobs, and he believes the best way to do that is to invest in education at all levels. And to his credit, he believes Oregon can’t be satisfied if Portland gets back to pre-recession employment while the rest of the state continues with a jobless rate in double digits.

But if he has a proposal on how to help people in non-metro Oregon, he didn’t say what it is. Even if more investment in education was possible, the rest of Oregon can’t wait 10 or 20 years for some uncertain payoff. And if the brightest and best educated Oregon children study for jobs in science and public administration and then move to California or Florida for better weather, how does Oregon benefit? Oregon’s future has to be built on what it has, which is abundant forests and other natural resources. The governor had nothing so say about that.

He does, however, hope to gain millions and, over 10 years, even billions of dollars in savings because of health care reforms now being tested. Let’s hope he’s right, but to some of us the savings from coordinated care organizations seem unlikely to materialize. Kitzhaber does have ideas for more tax revenue — in the area of what government calls “tax expenditures,” meaning ways in which the state now lets people keep some of their money.

The governor suggested how the state could increase taxes: By cutting back on tax deductions including the Senior Medical Deduction, which allows older Oregonians to deduct all their health care costs, even those that the federal government does not. Lawmakers might want to look elsewhere for revenue before they ding old people for taxes on money they had to spend on pills or false teeth. (hh)

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