Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Kitz-O-Meter

Reform Oregon's kicker law


Will "reform Oregon’s kicker law (which refunds state surpluses in excess of 2 percent of projected revenues to taxpayers). Before money goes back to taxpayers, it should first fill a reserve fund that will protect Oregonians from service cuts or tax increases during recessions. This is the most immediate way to ensure stable funding for education and other programs in the face of cyclical tax revenues."

Sources:

Economic Plan

Updates

Personal kicker reform remains Stalled

Oregon's unique kicker law has vexed many a politician because it's kind of wacky: If actual revenue exceeds projections by 2 percent or more, the entire surplus goes back to taxpayers. Some people dislike this because it doesn't allow for Oregon to build robust reserves for lean times. Other people think this is just fine, as it's a built-in mechanism to curb spending.

Readers with good memories may recall that voters approved a ballot measure to divert the corporate kicker in 2012, but the kicker is more than just corporate. In his 2010 Economic Plan, Kitzhaber promised to readust the way the kicker works, so some of the money could be diverted to a rainy day fund before rebating taxpayers.

That includes the personal kicker -- and it's that part that hasn't changed, with a little more than a year left in the term. In fact, the chances of changing the Constitution to allow for this change are pretty slim, given that he'd have to coax the Legislature into putting the issue before voters.

We continue to rate the promise Stalled.

Sources:

Email from Tim Raphael, Sept. 4, 2013

2010 Economic Plan (page 19)

A change in the kicker law, but not the one the governor promised

There's nothing much more politically sensitive in Oregon than the state's kicker law. You know, that quirky policy that sends state surpluses back to taxpayers whenever state economists underestimate the money coming from state taxes by more than 2 percent?

Still, Gov. John Kitzhaber pledged to take on that sacred cow during the 2010 campaign season. He told voters that he'd rework the law so that before the state cut millions of checks, some of that surplus would go into a reserve fund to help Oregonians out during tough times.

"This is the most immediate way to ensure stable funding for education and other programs in the face of cyclical tax revenues,” he wrote in a position paper on his campaign website.

The plan snagged two advocates during the 2011 legislative session: Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany, and Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who tried to shop the legislation around. In an attempt to sweeten the pot for reluctant Republicans, they opted to tie the kicker reform to a reduction of the state's capital gains tax rate.

In mid-May, the Oregonian's Jeff Mapes reported that the duo had "projections showing the state would save more in rainy day funds than it would lose in capital gains."

But even that didn't seem to be enough. Just as the Senate seemed to be poised to vote on the legislation, "Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, parked the two bills in the Rules Committee after hearing they were unlikely to pass the House,” Mapes reported.

Kitzhaber told Mapes in May that the issue could come up during the February session, but both Burdick and Morse said there would likely be even less political will to make that vote next year. Elections, after all, will be right around the corner.

The kicker didn't get completely ignored. A bill that converted the rebate from a check to a tax credit received enough support to pass both chambers.

Tha's a mere tweak, not the reform the governor and others championed For now, this promise has Stalled.

Sources:

The Oregonian, "Kitzhaber, businesses applaud successes,” June 30, 2011

The Oregonian, "Kicker duo can"t find allies,” May 21, 2011

The Oregonian, "Kicker may go from check to credit,” May 25, 2011

John Kitzhaber, "Jobs for today. Jobs for tomorrow,” 2010