Okay, let’s review.
Step one: The state of Oregon, in its wisdom, decides to equalize funding of schools throughout the state. All kids should have access to a good education, after all, whether they live in in tax-Rich Portland or a not-so-tax-rich rural area. Being a good liberal, I highly approved of this when I moved to Oregon seven years ago. Wealthier areas should subsidize schools everywhere else in the state, after all.
Step two: A fiscal crisis hits Oregon. Portland schools are hit particularly hard, and briefly have the shortest school year in the country (even Doonesbury makes fun of us). But schools all over the state are in trouble. We have to make a choice: Either we raise taxes, or we let our schools suck.
Step three. So Measure 28 is proposed, a temporary income tax that would have cost a typical Oregonian less than ten bucks a month. Since the proposed income tax is progressive, Portland taxpayers (who have higher average incomes) would have paid the largest share of the new taxes. 57% of voters in liberal Multnomah County (where Portland is located) vote for the tax hike, but the mostly-conservative rural counties of Oregon reject it, and the measure fails.
Step four: “Okay,” says Portland. “We were willing to raise taxes to pay for everyone’s schools, but y’all rejected it. So, fine; we’ll just raise our local taxes and pay for our schools that way.”
Step five: Oregon conservatives throw a hissy fit. “How dare you selfish Portlanders educate your kids? We’ve decided that no Oregon kids should get a decent education! And if you try to fund your own schools, we’ll take that money away from you!”
Look, folks. If you want to say we’re all in it together, Portland liberals will be more than willing to play ball. We’ll gladly send 30 cents of every tax dollar we pay educating rural kids; we’ll gladly vote for a tax increase if that’s what’s needed; and we’ll gladly pay for the lion’s share of that tax increase, too. Decent schools for all is what we want.
But y’all had a chance to vote for decent schools for all, and you rejected it. Fair enough; if you prefer to drown rather than pay a measly ten bucks a month extra to keep the state afloat, that’s your choice. But it’s spiteful to insist on dragging us under with you.
Equal funding for schools is a mutual support pact, not a suicide pact.
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Emma at The Oregon Blog has more on this general subject. Here’s a sample:
Personally, I think we should go ahead and have the damn war. The rural districts despise the metro areas and try to punish them at every opportunity. They complain that Portland dominates policy in their own areas and drain resources while compelling rural citizens to live by city values. But here’s the question: does rural Oregon really want to declare war on the Willamette Valley?
Who would pay for roads and bridges and dams in, say, Malheur County? Surely not the 32,000 people who live there. Which means Jackson and Coos Counties would have to chip in: no more Multnomah County gravy train. And let’s face it, the tri-county area in Portland is the major generator of revenue in Oregon. Most of the tax revenue is generated there and spread throughout the poorer, rural counties. They don’t like to be called poor stepchildren, but would they like to pay for their own services? Of course not.
Update: Jack Bog’s Blog has some comments, too.