Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Smith's Fuzzy Numbers

You've probably seen the TV ad accusing Jeff Merkley, Gordon Smith's Democratic rival for the US Senate, of voting for $2 billion worth of new

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2008 at 9:59 AM

You've probably seen the TV ad accusing Jeff Merkley, Gordon Smith's Democratic rival for the US Senate, of voting for $2 billion worth of new taxes as a member of the Oregon House. Smith has been repeating the same charge as he stumps around the state.

But according to Oregonian blogger Jeff Mapes, there's something fuzzy about Smith's numbers.

"When I asked Smith's campaign for documentation, they sent me a list that looked particularly designed to get a large figure," Mapes writes.

"For example, most of the money came from two income tax measures referred to the ballot in 2002 and 2003 when a recession had taken a huge whack out of state revenues. Voters defeated both of them, but the fact is that the Legislature would not have referred the second measure to the ballot if the first had passed.

"The other interesting tax vote that the Smith campaign included was on a 2007 bill to divert some $300 million from the 'corporate kicker' tax rebate into a rainy-day fund meant to help cover schools and other services in a future downturn. That diversion passed with the support of 17 Republicans in the House and such powerful business groups as Associated Oregon Industries."

Since the "kicker" is a rebate of taxes already collected, withholding part of it can't really be called a "tax increase." Altogether, that item and the two income tax measures account for $1.8 billion of the $2 billion in "new taxes" Smith accuses Merkley of voting for.

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