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Vote NO on the Salem Employee Payroll Tax: Protecting Family Budgets and Curbing Government Overreach

Written by Naomi Yanike on Oct. 16th, 2023
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Key figures across various sectors in Oregon are raising concerns about the Salem employee-paid payroll tax, voicing worries over its potential to strain family finances and its representation of excessive government involvement in local businesses.

Here’s why to vote no on November 7.

At this week’s Salem Reporter Town Hall, Oregon Business and Industry Political Affairs Director, Preston Mann, said as much as the city budget might be in a crisis, family budgets are as well.

“I think we can’t forget that in this conversation. People are having a very difficult time paying the bills right now, and $500 to $1,000 per family, that’s a lot of money. And frankly, I don’t think people can afford that,” he said.

As the president of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, Tom Hoffert sees the additional tension between how the tax will affect current employees’ monthly budgets versus retirees in Salem.

“On the surface, you have an employee base, many of whom have neither the ability nor inclination to provide additional resources from their already stretched monthly finances,” he said. “Conversely, Salem has a growing population of retired residents, who will see zero impact to their financial position in voting in favor of the payroll tax, knowing they, as retirees, will receive the increase in local services without financially paying for the new City employees.

Hoffert said that by targeting only those receiving paychecks, a notable segment of our residency will be unaffected by approving such payroll tax.

Community Health Outreach Worker Hamadi Jackson has a career invested in emergency services working with people experiencing homelessness. But he understands the impact of this tax on what he said are the “so-called working poor and lower middle class” who are at risk of becoming homeless because of taxes like this one.

“This tax is going to hit them squarely because people don’t have the dollars to stretch,” he said. “We say we have a homelessness crisis, and some of that has to deal with people not being able to pay their rent and meet their bills.”

Jackson believes that if you’re taxing people with this magnitude, you’re adding to the problem.

“Let’s say it affects only $20 of your paycheck – for someone that’s one tank of gas or one meal. It’s a quarter of one bill. It has real-world consequences,” he said. “When it comes down to the bottom line for those struggling, every penny will be noticed.”

At the Town Hall, Mann told the story of a woman who testified at a city council meeting that she would be forced to quit working to keep her health care because of the tax.

“That’s the kind of decisions that folks in this community are going to have to make if this tax moves forward,” he said.

Hoffert said that if the tax is upheld, it will present a number of challenging issues to both business owners and their employees due to “the number of pertinent details on collection of the tax that remain nebulous, at best.”

He said Salem residents have yet to have a clear answer about the cost of implementing and administering the proposed tax. Additionally, the rules for businesses to self-allocate employee work time within or outside the City are based on assumptions, as employers still need to establish or vet reporting methods.

“We view this ambiguity as yet another challenging layer of government overlay on the very businesses for which financial stability and success is predicated on for its contribution to the federal, state, and local tax base,” said Hoffert. “Without Salem companies thriving and growing, our tax base for government programs and services wither alongside the local businesses experiencing the economic decline.”

Hoffert believes that fostering local economic growth within our private sector companies provides additional paychecks into the local economic ecosystem, benefiting our entire community.

Jackson also believes in the power of local businesses as society’s job creators. “That is the road for many to the next step – whether it be home ownership or growing the business or the first step to generational wealth,” he said.

The ballots arrive next week in mailboxes on October 18, and the Special Election is November 7.

Hoffert has always encouraged his fellow residents to vote.

“A strong voter turnout, coupled with voters deeply educating themselves on the issues for which they are providing their vote, is the foundation for involvement in charting our community’s course into the future,” he said.

Hoffert wants the Salem City Council to know that the Salem Chamber “remains committed to being at that table, should we be invited to participate in future budget solutions.”

“My hope, personally, would be that the Salem Chamber’s strength as a voice for small businesses would be of high value in future alternative revenue discussions,” he said.

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