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Trick or Treat from the GOP?

Commentary
October 1, 2003By Chuck Sheketoff

More than a month before Halloween, Oregonians were treated to partisan activists clad in Colonial garb "reenacting" the 1773 Boston Tea Party. They were kicking off their campaign to force more cuts to schools, public safety and social services. Relying in part on funding from a Washington, D.C. lobbying group, the Oregon Republican Party and its chairman Kevin Mannix claim to be leading the campaign to force the cuts.

Unfortunately, the protestors appeared neither to understand nor to care about the real politics of the original Boston Tea Party. One protestor was quoted saying that the Boston Tea Party was held "...when they got fed up with the tax."

Too bad the protestors apparently don't know their American history. The Boston Tea Party was a protest because Parliament lowered taxes on British tea. The tax reduction helped the British East India Company by undercutting the price of Dutch tea being smuggled into the Colonies. The move was designed to preserve the East India Company's monopoly in the Colonies.

Not only wasn't it a protest against high taxes, but the Colonists were frustrated that the one remaining tax (the Townshend tax) was imposed from afar by people the Colonists couldn't elect. By contrast, a supermajority of Oregon legislators, elected by Oregonians, supported the revenue package that Mannix and the protesters are angry about. That's hardly taxation without representation.

At least those who participated in the original Boston Tea Party understood the real agenda behind their protest.

If Kevin Mannix and the other instigators of the referendum succeed in convincing voters to reject the legislative revenue package, will it be a trick or a treat?

PGE/Enron and other corporate freeloaders will be big winners. The Mannix-GOP led effort will allow PGE/Enron to continue to pay just $10 a year in income taxes. PGE/Enron and others will pay less tax than many unemployed workers pay on their unemployment insurance benefits. The Legislature's revenue package, which the Mannix-GOP effort seeks to overturn, raises the corporate minimum tax from the paltry $10 set back in 1931.

Big Oil will be a big winner under the Mannix scheme too, because the Legislature's revenue package closes a tax loophole that actually pays businesses to buy gas-guzzling SUVs.

Tobacco companies will be big winners under the Mannix-GOP scheme, because the Legislature's revenue package continues a two-year, 10-cent a pack tax on cigarettes, first enacted in 1993 to fund the Oregon Health Plan. Not only are Mannix and his costumed cronies uninformed about the Boston Tea Party of 1773, but they also ignore recent history. Mannix voted in favor of the 10-cent tax each time it came for a vote when he was in the legislature as a Democrat in 1993 and 1995, and as a Republican in 1999. Big tobacco has never been able to kill the measure at the Legislature. Now Kevin Mannix, apparently repenting his own voting record, is doing their cancerous work.

That's who will get the treats while Kevin Mannix and the Oregon GOP try to trick Oregon voters into cutting education and other vital public services. This October 31st keep an eye out for Mannix and other GOPers. Beneath their costumes and behind their rhetoric you will see Ken Lay, the ExxonMobil Tiger, or Joe Camel.

Charles Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. He can be reached at [email protected]

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