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Taxation Without Representation? The Stakes in Salem’s 2024 Legislative Race

Written by Kevin Mannix on Jun. 25th, 2024

The proper role of government in taxation–particularly without voter approval–will continue to be a key element to the 2024 election beyond the May primaries.

This is particularly evident in my race for House District 21, where my opponent in the fall appears to be Salem City Councilor Virginia Stapleton, who spearheaded the failed Salem Payroll tax and voted to prevent voters from having a say on the issue. Now she is publicly calling for an increase to property taxes. Her record of voting for more taxes on the city council is a sign of what’s to come if she is elected to the Oregon Legislature.

The City of Salem’s Revenue Task Force just released its preliminary recommendations on how to raise revenue for the city of Salem. While these recommendations aren’t final, unfortunately, several could have big consequences for area residents and businesses. These include ideas to implement a local gas tax in Salem, a tax on soda, a business income tax, and even an idea to toll the Marion Street bridge. 

These proposals by the City of Salem ignore an alternative approach: find ways to reduce City of Salem spending. 

However, it’s not just local governments looking at more ways to increase tax collections. Governor Tina Kotek’s Housing Production Advisory Council recently released five ideas on how to raise more taxes to fund the construction of housing around the state. These include: doubling the state gas tax, increasing property taxes, increasing income taxes, increasing payroll taxes and even implementing a sales tax. 

These all sound like bad ideas to me. Increasing taxes on consumers and businesses isn’t the way to make housing more affordable. 

We should reduce restrictive regulations, including speeding up the permit process and reducing permit fees. 

You may have also noticed that your utility bill is markedly higher than last year. That’s because PGE raised rates 17% in January to cover the costs of green energy mandates that the majority party in the Legislature passed, three years ago. Pacific Power is also raising rates 17% in response to these regulations. 

The 2021 law requires major utility companies to increasingly transition to more expensive and less reliable forms of energy such as wind and solar, and away from low-carbon alternatives such as natural gas. In a recent article in the Portland Business Journal, energy expert and former Bonneville Power Administration manager Randy Hardy said that in response to the growing demand for power in Oregon, “all the easy stuff has been done. Now we’re onto the more expensive, more difficult stuff.” 

PGE and other major utilities will have to ramp up their transition to more expensive energy. As a result, we can expect utility bills to continue to rise until the Legislature acts.

As your state representative, I will continue to combat these costly utility regulations, push back against efforts to raise property taxes, and implement other ways to boost funding for local police and fire, rather than raising taxes on working families yet again.

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