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By Ian K. Kullgren October 5, 2010

House Republicans accuse Will Rasmussen of supporting sales tax

In a political tit-for-tat, Oregon House Republicans are going after Will Rasmussen, the Democratic candidate for House District 37, for allegedly supporting a sales tax. This comes after Democrats targeted Julie Parrish, the Republican candidate, for the very same thing.

PolitiFact Oregon already looked into the charge levied against Parrish and found it lacking, but now Republicans say Rasmussen was just using those allegations as a way to cover up his own support for a sales tax.

"Why are Will Rasmussen and the House Democrats making false claims about Parrish's position on sales taxes?" reads the e-mail from the House Republicans. "Are they trying to mask Rasmussen's support of a sales tax as recently as last spring?"

We figured if we fact checked the Democrats’ claim and found it to be a little less than truthful, it might be worth our time to check in on the Republicans, too.

The e-mail we received from the Republicans cites comments Rasmussen made on March 15, 2010, at a Washington County Public Affairs Forum as the basis for the attack. Specifically, it highlights a piece of an answer about the state’s initiative petition process.

Here’s the way the Republicans framed the remarks: "Rasmussen told the Washington County Public Affairs Forum that Oregon should look ‘at alternative funding sources, certain transactions that may be taxable.’" (That second quote is them quoting Rasmussen.)

So, we went back to the video of the forum. The comment came up after an audience member asked what the candidates thought about a proposal to make the monetary impact of ballot initiatives clearer to voters. Rasmussen used the question as an opportunity to talk about the state’s revenue structure.

Here’s the bulk of what he said: "Oregon has the 3rd most volatile state revenue of any state in the Union. That's, of course, because we're so reliant on the income tax here in Oregon. And that's the most volatile tax. We have high highs and low lows. And what this does is create with mathematical certainty a funding crisis when the economy's bad. And here we find ourselves again six years or eight years after the last recession in a really bad economy and lo and behold we don't have dollars to go around. This is predictable insanity the way we currently have this structure set up. The challenge is how we fix it. There's several ways to go about it. You look at alternative funding sources, certain transactions that may be taxable, a lot of folks want to look at a rainy day fund, and I think that makes a lot sense. That would help flatten out the highs and the lows of our revenue structure."

House Republicans were upfront with the comments leading up to the talk about taxable transactions, but they left out Rasmussen’s more-vocal support for a larger rainy day fund. That little bit goes a long way, we think, because Rasmussen clearly endorses that idea. "I think that makes a lot sense," he says of the rainy day fund. With the bit about transactions, though, he seems to simply be naming one alternative that has popped up over the years: "You look at alternative funding sources, certain transactions that may be taxable." There, his tone appears to be more matter-of-fact. It seems clear to us that he supports the rainy day fund, but he doesn’t offer the same vocal support to a possible sales tax.

PolitiFact Oregon talked to Rasmussen to see if he could explain his remarks. "We were discussing Oregon’s volatile revenue," he said, "and I was just summarizing the two general proposals that I had heard other people talking about neither of which were policy proposals that I was advocating."

Upon review of the actual comments, it is clear that while Rasmussen might have mentioned a sales tax (and, yes, we think ‘"transactions that may be taxable" is pretty much code for sales tax), he isn’t advocating for one. We rate this claim False.


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Our Sources

E-mail from House Republicans, Sept. 27, 2010

Washington County Public Affairs Forum, Video , March 15, 2010

Interview with Will Rasmussen, Sept. 29, 2010

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House Republicans accuse Will Rasmussen of supporting sales tax

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