The Oregon Blog
Under grey skies, self-medicating with black coffee

Friday, August 29, 2003  


Apparently Vera sent an "intermediary" to the chief and told him he was done. Earlier today he sent a hand-written "resignation," agreeing to go. Holy Moly.

(It's not often I beat b!X to the punch, but it appears I scooped him on this one. Score one for the wobbling Oregon Blog!)

posted by Jeff | 4:47 PM |

Wednesday, August 27, 2003  

It looks like all of her classmates finally got together

And forced Karen "I don't like recess" Minnis to finally leave the building. According to LDT, now that Kulongoski has signed the budget, both sides of the aisle are going to tell Ms. Speaker Minnis (or, I suppose, Mrs. Speaker Minnis) not to "wait up for them." It seems that after all of this time, the members of the House want to go home than they want to stay and play partisan politics on (ironically) the public dime.

"What a long strange trip this has been" might be the years' biggest understatement.

This very just might have been the year that the Conservatives finally overplayed their hands in Oregon. First, The 2002 election cycle didn't bring a Republican to the Governor's Mansion.

Then the anti-tax hyenas, the stench of recession filling their nostrils like sweet rotting meat, attempted to gut state services from the budget by letting them go unfunded, all the while telling everyone that would listen that they weren't going to let education fail or old people starve. Of course, they fully intended to do those very things.

The people of Multnomah County and Beaverton school district, however, refused to defund the schools.

National politics incited people to become active. The war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, the defacto suspension of Habeas Corpus for Maher Hawash, The FCC Consolidation idiocy.

There was a spill-over into local politics. The pumps were primed for a fight. Metaphors rained like Similes. The activists were fired up and looking for someone's nose to bloody.

There was leftover resentment from last years legislative failure that resulted in prop 38. Even people usually unwilling to sign on to tax increases were disgusted with the legislature refusing to take a hard stand on revenue. They viewed prop 38 as a cop-out. A refusal to do the job that we sent them to do.

Not seeming to notice this change in climate, Speaker Minnis decided that this year to throw down, call the bluff, see what the people were really all about. Diamond Dave Reinhard, unable to decide whether to deride goverment spending or encourage it, led the cheerleaders. Surely, they felt, firm resolve was all the squeezing that was left to strangle the state budget.

So Minnis' hard-line "my way or the Highway" Bushian stance blew up in her face. Everything she tried to accomplish, through hook and crook, fizzled. Failed. Died on the vine.

She attempted to indict the Democrats by holding the House in session, by changing the rules as she went along, by shutting the Democrats out of the bill-writing process, by refusing to negotiate.

The state Democrats didn't get the blame. The Senate compromised on the budget, and the Democrat-endorsed budget passed. The Democrats got everything they asked for and not a penny more.

In the end, she decided that she would try to punish her fellow Republicans for turning on her, and continued to the 11th hour in holding the House in session.

In a way, I think, it was most telling that Kevin Mannix, instead of Minnis, rode out of the sunset to pick up the call to continue fighting against the budget.

Minnis looks, in the end, very tired. And very much the victim of her own hard-line stance. Her agenda repudiated, her power diminished.

The fight isn't over, especially if the anti-taxers can get a proposal on the November ballot. But the Conservatives, who walked into this year thinking they were an 800-lb gorilla are leaving on recess looking a lot more like a cute little spider monkey.

posted by fred | 3:42 PM |

Conspiring Minds want to know...

Is it too coincidental that the very forests that the Pres wanted to visit to tout his "no tree left behind" plan erupted into flames the day that his plans to visit them were revealed?

That this got play in the local media is very interesting in and of itself. They don't draw any conclusions about whodunit (or at least who it would benefit), but it doesn't take much to connect their dots....

posted by fred | 12:01 PM |

Working on the Tax Shift...(Introduction)

I want to respond to Emma's flat-tax arguments outside of the comments section, but I'll be saving those for some degree of splash on a Super-Secret Exciting New Project that will be starting up next week. So until then, you'll just have to wait.

However, I did want to make a few points on the rhetoric of the anti-tax crowd, something I did with a very rough hand last Friday on rantavation concerning California (I promise not to cross-link back to myself too often. I'm not doing it for "ecosystem" purposes, as I already have about 10 times the links then I do traffic. And I'd rather the traffic.) The same deceptive language extends to all the anti-taxers, and that language seems to be what the SCLM tends to pick up on. I'm not sure if it's because it sounds so controversial, or because the newswriters are signed on to the anti-tax movement, or if the news media are just too lazy and too time-pressed to check either way.

Personally, I'm more inclined to the latter, as a strong majority of "news" stories come off of the "PR Newswire" more or less verbatim. If you don't have the "time" to do your job (something about media consolidation fits in here, I'm sure), and someone is willing to "write it for you," then so much the better.

Anyway, I have a point to my post--That the (local) media reported skewed and misleading figures when they described the new income-tax surcharge, and the Bush tax-shift at the Federal level did exactly what it was supposed to do, reason 3(b): shifted the taxation burden down to the states.

Thanks to some great research material from Emma's Legislative Deep Throat (thanks, LDT!), let's talk about the true nature of the tax "increase" and the shift from the Feds to the states.

First, there's the "increase to the average taxpayer of $111," which both KOIN and KGW cite. Of course, that's a cute game of "statistical jargon flummoozing." The misleading term in this statement is "average taxpayer," Meaning not the "average person's tax burden," but the average payout over all tax brackets and both filing types (individual and jointly) divided by the cost of the tax per tax-bracket.

Slicing the numbers that way make it sound really high--"my goodness, everyone in Oregon is going to be shelling out at least $111 more a year. In a recession. Damb tax-and-spenders, kicking us while we're in a recession..."


The most prevelant taxpayer (the majority of taxpayers) in Oregon files in the $40k/year joint tax bracket. That means that the majority of tax-payers in Oregon will be paying $38/year in Oregon tax increases per year (I'll get back to the emphasis on Oregon in a minute). That's $3.16/month for you folks getting out the calculator at home. That's a movie rental. That's 2/3rds of a Supersized Quarter-pounder(tm) Value Meal at McD's. That's literally pocket change.

$3.16 a month, recession or no recession, is spit in the ocean. Of course, that's beside the point. Continuing educational and social services programs helps bring business into the community, not scare them away. Reports of failing schools, decaying infrastructure, and Criminals Gone Wild!(tm) does strike fear into the hearts of prospective employers (or at least in proxy for their employees.)

The real point is that because of the Federal income tax shift, the tax burden has actually decreased for next year (by $312 for the average taxpayer). So we might have had to increase state taxes slightly, very slightly, to make up for the deficiencies of the Oregon revenue system (income heavy--and subject to the fluctuations of the labor market) and the tax shift at the Federal level--sucking out revenues while adding Federal mandates to the states and refusing to fund them at the Federal level.

Meanwhile, the anti-taxers are running around and screaming like naked teenagers being chased by a chainsaw-wielding psychopath about the increased burdens on the taxpayers. The news media, either by omission or commission, are willing accomplises. Meanwhile, Queen Karen still holds the legislature hostage hoping for a White Knight to come to her aid and lead her out of the terrible mess she made of her agenda.

posted by fred | 10:37 AM |

Tuesday, August 26, 2003  

Inspired by the fine addition of Fred to these pages, I'll address something he brought up recently: what's so damn bad about flat taxes? His thought: exempt the first thirty grand and then tax individuals on all their income at, say, 10% (I think he might allow for economists to identify a different point). Although I didn't investigate it as fully, he envisions a similar type of tax on business.

The question isn't one of specifics but of philosophy: why isn't this progressive?

I fully expect others to pile on here (Fred having invitingly waved the red flag), but my main argument comes down to these two points:

1. Equity.
Things that are equal do not necessarily become equitable. (From the Latin, equal comes from aequalis or even, whereas equity is derived from aequitas, or fair.) Society depends on adequate funding--it works far better with adequate funding. Things like roads and police and schools are paid for, and they benefit us all. It may be an equal proposition to say everyone pays into the kitty at the same rate, but it's not fair.

Let's imagine the circumstance of a guy, Wally, with $20k of student debt, a car payment, and a child to support. He works for Wal-Mart and makes $20k. His wife works thirty hours a week as the secretary for their local church and clears $12k. That means they're paying $275 a month to Uncle Sam.

Down the road is Bob Pamplin. He clears $13 mil. His monthly load is substantial: almost $110k. But while the $275 that Wally pays puts his family in the red, Pamplin still has $975k a month to try to squeak by on. If these two folks were members of our families, we'd say, "Whoa--why is Wally paying so much; that's not fair!" But we have politics of hate and division and so Pamplin calls Wally a slacker and gets his political friends to thump him with late-payment charges when he bounces a check.

2. Ethics.
America stands for two, occasionally contradictory, principles: liberty and equality. On the surface they're both comprehensible--liberty to pursue our happiness, equality to avoid ending up at a segregated school (or worse). But the ethics come into it when one person's liberty infringes upon another's equality.

Let's completely avoid the whole Affirmative Action red herring. There are so many better examples. Why is it that if you rob the liquor store with a knife and get away with $142, you go to jail, but if you rob your shareholders, you get a severence package worth $142 million? It's not a spurious example. When the President calls it "class warfare," what he's trying to obscure is that one class does indeed have enormous privilege, and this privilege does infringe on the equality of others (not to mention their liberty).

Back when the income tax was first enacted, the highest rate was 90%. This reflected the view that in order to achieve equity, the top tier should have to pay more than their equal share (it was also the depression). They already had other advantages. Whereas the poor were living in tarpaper shacks, the wealthy owned oil companies. Things like that. And despite the fact that these were unequal rates of taxation, Americans never felt more together or more united (though there was a World War, which didn't hurt). That level of taxation also led, incidentally, to the greatest period of wealth in our history.

That's a lot of blather for a pretty simple question. Still, I promised a "grand treatise," so I felt I had to give some effort. Thoughts?

posted by Jeff | 6:04 PM |

A short(?) introduction

First, I would like to thank Emma for letting me help out on the Oregon Blog. Hopefully I'll be able to help fill out everyone's yearning for Oregon-specific content.

Second, I wanted to write-up a short bio as a way of saying "hullo!"

I am a mid-30s father of 3, living in North Portland. I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. My father drove a semi-truck for Safeway, my mom was a telephone operator, a stay-at home mom, a teacher's aide, and finally, a librarian's aide. Good, solid "middle-class" people somewhere around the economic median.

I first saw Oregon on a vacation to the Northwest when I was six or seven. I remember the beaches, the trees, the greenery. I remember the beauty of the Olympic rainforest, and eating seafood for lunch somewhere on the Seattle waterfront while they pulled the catch onto the pier.

When I was in high school, I saw a girlfriends' calendar of "waterfalls" and a photo of what must have been punchbowl falls and thinking to myself "that is where I want to live..."

After various incarnations as musician, formula-one euroracer wannabee (who knew it required so much money?), law student, factory worker, insurance adjuster, and finally software engineer, I took a chance to move myself away from everyone I had known over 31 years of life, and took a job in Portland. And I've never been happier about a decision in my life.

That being said, thank you, Emma, for inviting me to help you out (or at least allowing me to invite myself) and hopefully I can add something more than foam packing peanuts to the discussion.

posted by fred | 10:32 AM |

Monday, August 25, 2003  

As many of you have noticed (many, heh--I flatter myself.), this blog has been dying a slow death of neglect. This is not, I want to emphasize, because of disinterest. Far from it. In fact, I think that of my two blogs, this is the more important. Trouble is, it's also a lot harder. You actually have to keep on the ball and do good research. Mostly in entails reportage on complex issues. Far harder than sending off a broadside at Dubya, which is mostly what Notes on the Atrocities is dedicated to.

Recently our good friend Fred Henning offered to pitch in. As soon as I can figure out how to hook him into the posting interface, he'll be offering some of his own astute commentary. He knows quite a bit about Oregon politics, and should infuse the blog with some new life. If anyone else would also like to help out, holler and we can talk. This blog isn't anything special now, but it is called the Oregon Blog, so it should be. If you have an interest in Oregon issues, and particularly if you don't live in Portland, consider it.


posted by Jeff | 2:33 PM |

Thursday, August 21, 2003  

I should be talking about the Really Big News. That would be the surprising budget deal, of course, and I even have some insider info about the negotiations from our good friend LDT. But the truth is I'm all hepped up over the President's visit.

I commented on it in general over at Notes, but I'd like to mention some of the things I just watched on the local news. (Very briefly, it was fine: a fairly large crowd variously described as 2,000 to several thousand wholly peaceful protesters. Well after most everyone had left, a couple hundred kids got rowdy and ten were arrested.)

B!X, over at Portland Communique has his usual excellent coverage, and I've stolen his pictures here. He also links to a "blog" KATU has posted that got me interested in this whole local coverage thing. The posts they make as the day unfolds are seriously at odds with what actually happened when they're not being just absurdly irrelevant (Reporter observes the strong odor of marijuana smoke!). It reminded me that the bulk of Portlanders would learn about this event when they got home from work and tuned in the local TV.

KATU (2)
I expected this to be the most salacious, based on the "blog" postings. One of the most provocative pieces on the blog is something titled "KATU crew assaulted by protesters," replete with not-very-provocative footage (see it here). I don't know what happened earlier in the day, but by the evening news, this got almost no play. (They showed a portion of it, but instead of describing the incident as an attack on them--which it clearly was not--the called it a fight between protesters. Also absent was the defensive remarks about being the corporate media.)

To the contrary; KATU had the least salacious coverage. It was fairly neutral, and gave proportional coverage to the various elements of the day: the anti-Bush protesters (99.9% of the crowd), the pro-Bush supporters, the police, and the speech. People who watched KATU will have the most accurate view of the day's events.

(I don't know if it's a relevant fact, but it seemed like KATU had a lot more reporters on the scene, including at least two sattelite vans.)

KOIN (6)
KOIN wasn't horrible, but it wasn't good, either. It took a decidedly pro-Bush, pro-order view. The tenor of reportage was similar to that you'd find from reporters covering a story in Baghdad--the protesters were a danger and got in the way of things, but over all, they behaved themselves, so we can all breathe a big sigh of relief. They gave maybe a third of the coverage to the pro-Bushies. Without exaggeration, I think it's safe to say that there were fewer than 30 pro-Bushies there (this is partly verified by the fact that the footage on all three channels was of the same scraggly bunch and were also the same ones I saw). They also ran a story, like KGW, on some girl whom the President met and praised. They also ran a lot more of the ominous footage of dangerous protesters--despite the fact that everyone called it a successful and safe event.

KGW (8)
KGW was horrible, just horrible. They ran only ominous pieces about the protesters, cheery crap about the Prez and his supporters, and a positive press about the pro-Bushies, including a long, bizarre piece in which a anti-Bushie interrupted a pro-Bushie who was talking about her child (whom I believe was in Iraq, or died in Iraq, or something). It was bizarre because it was a clear set-up to show the protesters as marauding terrorists, but the guy was making a lot of sense. He interrupted and said that was the only way the real news would get told on the corporate media. They also ran a piece in which an elderly pro-Bushie contemptuously condemned the protesters as having not earned the right to be there. (Which was contradicted by a piece over on KATU in which a different, liberal elderly man who was an anti-Bush pacifist, told the story of his brother--one of five who had served--who died in war. He was too choked up to finish the story.)

I guess I don't really know what to make of all this, except to say that--again--two thirds of the media told a story that didn't happen to sell fear and anger for profit. This is a city in which something like 75% of the population voted for Gore (that stat comes from memory from The Emerging Democratic Majority). The folks at the protest were exercising their right to tell their president--their president--what they thought of his policies. They were overwhelmingly telling him his priorities were wrong and that he'd better serve the people better. But what do the local media show? The chilling tale of radicals barely kept in check while defiling the good name of the republic. Too bad we can't vote them out of office.

As an unrelated aside, I saw on Reuters UK that when he got to Redmond, Bush called the fires a "holocaust" and "devastating." I wonder what the Europeans would think of a war-dodging US chickenhawk President would liken a forest fire to the holocaust--all in service of pushing through a minor piece of conservative legislation.

posted by Jeff | 7:16 PM |

Wednesday, August 20, 2003  

And another thing: the Prez is chicken. He loves to vamp for the boys in jeans and fatigues (dressing up himself in pretend threads), but the last thing he wants is a real fight. So off he goes to preach to the converted behind a cordon of security on private property.

I tells ya what, Meester President: come on down tomorrow to Columbia Park. Listen to what real Americans, armed with only their wits and good looks, have to say. We'll treat you right and proper--all we'll do is ask to hear you defend your policies. Ain't scared of that, are you?

(I have posted this on the off chance the Secret Service is trolling the blogs for subversive activity. Maybe they'll mention that an anarchist has called him chicken. You never know.)

posted by Jeff | 3:57 PM |

Tuesday, August 19, 2003  

On that note, the Oregonian today opines that Bush shouldn't have to pony up for his visit.

The price of being on the political map is that a city will sometimes rate a visit, in person, from a president. It's an honor, one that should be treated with a certain generosity of spirit. We hate to see it descend, like a bad lunch date, into tense calculations over the bill....

Portland protesters would be happy to see the Republican Party pay for policing parts of the president's trip, but the same protesters would be outraged if they had to pay their share. And yet protests are the variable that sends policing costs skyward.

And protesters stand to benefit from this presidential trip no less than Republicans, as is clear if you take a look at the protesters' Web sites. A presidential visit gives them a chance to amplify their message and attract followers.

Wrong. The Oregonian fails to distinguish between a Presidential visit to benefit Portland, and a Presidential visit to benefit the President. I'd gladly pay for an opportunity to holler from my happy little mob directly at the Prez. Obviously, I won't have the chance because he's not here to meet the people. Not the poor ones, anyway. No. He's coming to play that fun game he enjoys--transactional politics. The transaction? You give him a pile of dough, he gives you a kickback.

Should the city pay for a visit that doesn't benefit its citizens? Should it pay so that the President can come and raise some obscene amount of money so that he may further remove power from the voices of the people he refuses to hear?

If the President wants to serve the people of the city, fine: we'll pay. But as long as all he's doing is playing grim moolah politics, let him pay for the junket out of his own damn pocket, not mine.

posted by Jeff | 12:44 PM |

Ask and you shall receive:

Presidential Protest:
Converge Thursday morning, August 21, 2003
Columbia Park at Lombard St
North Portland
March to begin at 10 am

posted by Jeff | 12:33 PM |

Politics being what they are, this is the play: pass the baseball bill. Yes, you wisely don't want baseball, I know. But here's the thing: the petty tyrants of the House, they who will accept only complete victory on their own terms, want baseball. So give it to them, but at a hefty price. Senate Dems have a number of plans cooking, and now they have a bargaining chip. Baseball for a kicker repeal or this new surcharge deal. In a normal political world, it would be a fair trade off--or at least a reasonable one (which doesn't mean, of course, that the House Republicans will go for it).

And the really cool thing is that even if it passes, you will likely not have to fund baseball. This is only the first hurdle. Even if the Governor signs it, baseball's a long way from coming to Puddletown. There's still no owner and Portland's only one of the options for relocation.

And, even in the event baseball comes, it would be a fair deal in exchange for getting rid of the odious kicker. Not to mention that it will test how fanatical House 'phants are willing to be to hold the line.

posted by Jeff | 8:25 AM |

Friday, August 15, 2003  

I promise, promise, promise: next week I'll blog more. No time today. Apologies all around.

posted by Jeff | 12:33 PM |

Tuesday, August 12, 2003  

Oh yes, and we did officially pass the benchmark for "longest regular session in Oregon legislative history." Now it's all gravy.

Current cost for this train wreck (the legislative session): $4,595,528.43.

posted by Jeff | 12:15 PM |

So what do the school failures mean? I don't have kids nor do I follow schools issues that closely. Still, I was stunned to see that every large high school except one (South Eugene) failed. Early consequences will be financial:

Schools that receive Title I federal aid to help disadvantaged students will face stiffer consequences if they make the list next year, too. They will have to give students top priority and free bus rides to transfer to higher-performing schools. And they face a series of escalating consequences each year if they fail to hit the performance targets.

Eight Oregon schools, including Jefferson and Roosevelt high schools in Portland, have triggered those requirements. Another 113 schools, including 12 more in Portland and three each in Hillsboro and Reynolds, will be hit with sanctions if they don't improve by next spring.

But what happens if such a broad group continue to fail? (And what does it mean that the federal requirements, which carry financial penalties, weren't funded by the Bush White House that passed them?)

Moreover, what does it mean for Oregon's budget? If all these schools are already failing, and they're looking at losing money and closing early, what does the legislature expect to happen? (That they're all failing is, I suppose, good news--if there are no other schools for students to go to, everyone stands pat.) It's all pretty mystifying to me...

posted by Jeff | 12:11 PM |

Thursday, August 07, 2003  

All right Kucinich heads, time to light the fire of the revolution. Be there or risk a Lieberman candidacy!

National Kucinich in 2004 Meetup Day

Thursday, Aug 7 @ 7PM

Fireside Coffee Lodge
1223 SE Powell
Portland, OR

Find Kucinich in 2004 Supporters near: Entrance

Kucinich in 2004 Supporters and friends

* Make plan for communications among group members between MeetUps.
* Recruitment of Downloaders 4 Dennis on the Privacy Issue
* Limiting corporate influence at all levels from DC to schools

Meetup Agendas are created by Meetup+ members.

* Bring friends to your Meetup
* Post photos of Meeutps

If you cannot make it, please respect the Kucinich in 2004
Supporters by changing your RSVP status here:

How to Meetup:
Here are a few tips to help you have a good Meetup. Some might seem overly obvious, but sometimes the simple things make all the difference.

1. For starters, if you say you're going to be there: SHOW UP. Other people are counting on you.

2. Be on time and look for the Kucinich in 2004 Supporters! You've come this far - don't just cruise by the venue. Take a good look around and if you don't see anyone right away, wait a few minutes.

3. Check in with the host/bartender/manager (depending on the venue). Ask them where the people are gathering for the Meetup. If they don't know about the Meetup, tell them why you're there and where you'll be so they can direct other people to you as they arrive.

Give it a chance! Talking to strangers is bound to be a little awkward at first, but the great thing about Meetups is that you already know you've got something in common.

We hope that you, your friends, your family, and your neighbors have good Meetups.

posted by Jeff | 11:10 AM |

Wednesday, August 06, 2003  

Whoa--shocking news.

PORTLAND — Maher “Mike” Hawash, one of seven Portland-area suspects charged with terrorism related crimes, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to provide services to the Taliban, but will not face other charges in exchange for testimony against other suspects.

Hawash, a software engineer who worked for Intel, had initially pleaded innocent to charges of conspiracy to wage war against the United States, conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida and conspiracy to contribute services to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

In exchange for testimony, federal prosecutors agreed to drop charges of conspiring to levy war against the U.S. and conspiring to provide material support for terrorism. Hawash pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide services to the Taliban.

He will serve a minimum of seven years in federal prison under the deal, which was approved by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Of course, no one knew whether Hawash was guilty or not. We'll be hearing a constant flood of "I-told-you-sos" from the conservative lock-em-up right (I shudder to think what Reinhard will write). So let's all keep our heads about us: none of the Portland protesters ever said he was innocent. We protested the fact that he was locked up for 80-odd days without being charged. We protested because the US government felt it was necessary to suspend his Constitutional rights to build a case against him.

That he's guilty doesn't mean John Ashcroft is exonerated.

posted by Jeff | 2:41 PM |

Tuesday, August 05, 2003  

Haloscan comments up now. I hope these last me for awhile...

posted by Jeff | 3:34 PM |

Monday, August 04, 2003  

Hey, lookit here:

Federal grant applications are being reconsidered by legislative budget writers, following a political and public outcry last month.

Legislators have reversed their earlier denial of a lead-paint hazard program, said Rep. Randy Miller, R-West Linn, co-chairman of the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee.

And a rejected grant for a program to combat obesity is being re-examined, officials said.

Last month, Oregon health officials and Ways and Means members learned that the co-chairmen had blocked nearly a dozen requests.

posted by Jeff | 2:31 PM |

The running cost of keeping the legislature in session:

Aug. 6 $4,453,926
Aug. 5 $4,432,305
Aug. 4 $4,410,684
Aug. 3 $4,389,063
Aug. 2 $4,367,442
Aug. 1 $4,345,821
July 31 $4,324,200

Also note that on Thursday we tie the record for the longest legislative session in Oregon history, and on Friday break it.

Meanwhile, legislators have the incredibly poor form to complain that being in session's really putting a cramp in their style. No kidding? Cry us a stinkin' river.

posted by Jeff | 2:27 PM |

A lot to look at, and I'll try to get through as much as I can. First off, the beer tax, which appears DOA now that it was peeled off the larger budget. As some of you know, I strongly opposed the beer tax as it was originally written. Somewhere along the line, though, it was revised, and I'm not so sure how I feel that the new version was killed.

Originally, the tax was to increase some 1300% from its current rate of $2.60 a barrel. I disliked this tax for a number of reasons. The main issue as I saw it was that the tax unfairly targeted one industry, and only one industry. The tax was on brewers, who already have by far the tiniest margin in the beer-sales chain. It would hurt a robust local industry and raise very little. And you have to question any tax increase that jumps so dramatically.

But the revised version takes care of a lot of these issues:

The bill before the revenue committee would raise the existing tax of $2.60 a 31-gallon barrel in phases and dedicate the revenue to county health and substance abuse programs. The bill exempts from the new rates the first 5,000 barrels a month; imposes a rate of $4.96 a barrel for amounts between 5,000 and 10,000 barrels; and $9.92 for amounts over 10,000 barrels.

There are only a few brewers in Oregon who might be affected by this tax: Widmer, Full Sail, Deschutes, BridgePort, Portland (MacTarnahan's). The tax would hit them in times of heavier production (spring and summer), but would only hit a few thousand barrels at most. I don't think any of the brewers are doing more than 10,000 barrels in any month. So mainly, it's a tax on Budweiser.

The tax will actually benefit Oregon brewers, functioning as a kind of industrial beer tariff. So why aren't they backing it? No, not because they're egalitarian types who eschew an unfair advantage. Rather, because the need the muscle and support of the bigs in the event that the legislature decides to throw that provision out later on. Oregon brewers have no real money for serious lobbying or legal battles. They stay with Bud because they think that's the smart move in the long term. I think it's a risky prospect. I'd back the deal and get ready to rumble with the Bud.

But then, I ain't too smart.

posted by Jeff | 10:24 AM |