When Oregonians receive their kicker checks over the next couple of weeks, they will also get a message from the Governor telling them that the money could have been better spent on public infrastructure, but for the lack of political will.
Download this news release (PDF).
CenterPoints: A Ladder to the Moon, June 2007, by Chuck Sheketoff
Income Tax Kickers Disproportionately Benefit Multistate Corporations and Wealthy Oregonians, a distributional analysis of the projected 2005-07 corporate and personal income tax kickers, March 28, 2006.
Or at least that is what would have happened if the winner of the Oregon Center for Public Policy’s contest for the best kicker message lived in Mahonia Hall.
In early November, the Silverton-based think tank invited Oregonians to answer the question, “If you were the Governor, what message to Oregonians would you place on the envelopes with the kicker checks?”
The contest received more than 60 entries, from which OCPP selected the top three and put them up for vote by the public. OCPP advertised the contest on Oregon political blogs and its own website. Gary Olsen-Hasek of Salem submitted the winning statement, garnering 53 percent of the public’s votes.
“We are returning this tax revenue to you because of the ‘kicker’ law,” wrote Olsen-Hasek in his winning message. “We could use this revenue for many other purposes (healthcare and housing for the poor, infrastructure renewal, state park care and enhancement, environmental law enforcement, state troopers, etc.) but we don’t have the political will.”
Oregon is the only state in the country with a law that automatically “kicks back” revenue to taxpayers when it exceeds the state’s forecast for the two-year budget period by 2 percent or more. This year’s kicker refund — the largest ever at about $1.1 billion and 18.6 percent of taxpayers’ 2006 liability — is being sent out between now and December 15.
“There is a strong sentiment among Oregonians that the kicker is foolish, short-sighted public policy,” noted OCPP’s executive director, Chuck Sheketoff. He said that OCPP carried out the contest not only in the spirit of fun but also to send a message that many Oregonians believe the kicker law should be scrapped.
The runner-up entry, submitted by Jim Barta of Portland, was “Future budget crisis insurance enclosed.”
The second runner-up was “You got your kicker while our state’s problems got thicker,” written by James McClain, also from Portland.
Though calling it a success, Sheketoff said he wishes never to have to hold the contest again. “I hope that next time we’re fortunate enough to have unanticipated revenue, we’ll have grown wiser and saved the money for the next rainy day,” he said.
The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a non-partisan research institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians.