Measure 59 Would Raise Taxes on Retirees and Other Oregonians

News Release
October 17, 2008 Download PDF

An example of unintended consequences, Measure 59 on the November ballot would raise taxes on as many as 120,000 Oregonians, many of them retirees, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

The measure’s language would make federal taxes paid on Social Security benefits, which presently can be deducted on state tax returns, no longer eligible for a deduction, said OCPP executive director Chuck Sheketoff.

“Measure 59 was already a terrible deal for most Oregonians, but a thorough reading of the measure shows that the news gets worse, especially for retirees,” Sheketoff said.

Measure 59, which would allow an unlimited deduction of federal taxes on state returns, states that it “applies only to . . . federal income taxes paid on income subject to tax in Oregon.”

Income from Social Security is not subject to tax in Oregon, but it is at the federal level.

Under current Oregon law, taxpayers can deduct up to $5,600 paid in federal taxes from state returns. Existing law does not require that the income be subject to tax in Oregon, so retirees can subtract on their state returns the federal taxes they pay on Social Security when calculating their Oregon taxable income, Sheketoff explained.

Because Measure 59 “supersedes any existing law or rule with which it conflicts,” it would no longer permit the state deduction of federal taxes paid on Social Security.

Other forms of income, including federal pensions and federal bond interest, would fall under the same prohibition, said Sheketoff.

According to OCPP, state economists have calculated that under Measure 59 roughly 120,000 Oregonians would have to pay more in taxes in 2010, the year the measure would take effect. The economists estimated that the average increase would be $50.

The estimate of 120,000 did not include Oregonians who receive certain military and National Guard income, who could also be affected by Measure 59.

“Measure 59 would punish retirees, many of whom don’t have a lot of extra money to spend, in order to hand a fat tax cut to Oregon’s wealthiest,” said Sheketoff.

An earlier analysis by OCPP reported that the wealthiest 1 percent of Oregon households would reap about half of the total tax break under Measure 59 and that fewer than one out of four taxpayers would get any tax benefit.

According to OCPP, Measure 59 would cost the state at least $1.1 billion next budget cycle, the equivalent of what Oregon spends on all public universities.

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.