Governor calls for revenue overhaul


Gov. Ted Kulongoski today called on Oregon's newly created revenue task force to take a top-to-bottom look at how the state collects money as they work toward crafting a tax structure that offers stability and protection from future economic downturns.

As the Democratic governor addressed the panel at their first meeting in Salem on Thursday, he said the Beaver State is on sound economic footing. Now is the time to take "a fresh look" the state's tax system, he said.

"Doing nothing to make our tax system more stable, more fair or better able to meet our most compelling needs is no one's preferred outcome. None of us would be here if that were our idea for tax reform," Kulongoski said in his prepared remarks.

" the same token, a massive overhaul of our tax system &

which ignores its strengths, exaggerates its weaknesses or writes the wrong prescription for what ails us &

can be just as much a failure," he told the 30-member Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring, as its known officially.

the end of the current two-year budget cycle, Kulongoski said the state will have nearly $1 billion in reserves, but warned that's not enough to weather the type of deep recession that hit Oregon in 2001.

"No one wants to repeat the budget-cutting trauma of the last recession," Kulongoski said. "We are better prepared to deal with the next recession, because of our new rainy day fund."

The advisory panel will also draft proposals for the 2009 Legislature aimed at protecting timber-dependent counties, including Jackson and Josephine, which face the loss of federal logging subsidies.

Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, co-sponsored the legislation that created the task force charged also with creating a tax system that not only provides the state financial stability, but also stimulates the economy.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, he said the governor is correct to say that "everything is on the table" in terms of discussing how best to finance state and local governments.

"We need to start talking about things instead of just burying our heads," Esquivel said. "We need to make a major change, I think."

It is inevitable, he said, that the state will experience another deep recession, and without a stable revenue stream the state will once again founder.

"We need to go in this with open ears and eyes and decide what we feel is for the betterment of Oregon -"" not what's better for us individually as Republicans or Democrats, but what's best for Oregon," Esquivel said. "If we don't start talking about it now, it won't ever get done."

covers the state Legislature for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at

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