Kicker leaves behind rural Oregonians

Kicker leaves behind rural Oregonians

One way to improve the kicker for rural communities would be to transform the policy into the Working Families Kicker

Kicker leaves behind rural Oregonians

Oregon’s kicker is a policy that worsens income inequality, racial inequality, and — as this analysis notes for the first time — geographic inequality. The kicker sends tax filers a rebate when revenue collections come in 2 percent or more above what state economists predicted two years earlier. When that happens, the entire amount over their forecast is returned to Oregonians based approximately on their tax liability.

The kicker leaves behind rural Oregonians, according to data from the Oregon Department of Revenue on kicker payments for each county during the 2021 tax year.[1] It disproportionately helps tax filers in urban areas, particularly the Portland metro area and Deschutes County.

The disproportionate flow of kicker dollars to urban areas is largely, although not exclusively, driven by urban counties having higher incomes than rural parts of Oregon. Consider Douglas County, which ranks as the 18th richest county by average taxable income, but sits at 25th for average kicker.[2] Conversely, Columbia County is the 14th richest county but receives the 11th highest average kicker. It’s unclear what exactly drives these variations, but what is clear is that rural counties are left with relatively smaller kickers than urban ones.

Of the ten counties with the highest average kickers, only Sherman County and Crook County are in the state’s rural minimum wage designation area, the lowest of Oregon’s three-tier minimum wage structure.[3] Three of the top five are in the Portland metro area, with Deschutes County and Hood River County rounding out the top five. On the other hand, all but one of the ten counties with the lowest average kicker are rural, and the one outlier is Josephine County, which is in the “standard” (middle-tier) minimum wage designation. The average kicker in Clackamas County is over $1,300. That is about double what the average kicker is in one-third of Oregon counties, the counties with the lowest average kicker.

Working Families Kicker would help rural communities

One way to improve the kicker for rural communities would be to transform the policy into the Working Families Kicker. Under the Working Families Kicker, every Oregonian would get an equal kicker.[4] Had the Working Families Kicker been in place in 2021, every tax filer in Oregon would have received roughly $850. That would have resulted in higher average kickers in 27 out of Oregon’s 36 counties. All but two rural counties would have registered higher average tax rebates. Residents of Jefferson, Baker, Malheur, Harney, and Wheeler counties would have seen average kickers increase by more than $200.

Advancing the Working Families Kicker would strengthen the economic security of rural families.

Chart: Average kicker amount by county in Oregon


[1] Data on the 2021 tax year provided by the Oregon Department of Revenue.

[2] County average taxable income calculated from Oregon Department of Revenue data for the 2021 tax year.

[3] Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Oregon Minimum Wage, accessed on 4/10/24.

[4] Daniel Hauser, The Working Families Kicker, Oregon Center for Public Policy, March 2023.

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Daniel Hauser

Daniel Hauser is the Deputy Director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy

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