Oregon Raises Taxes for Schools; Will Other States Follow?

January 28, 2010 1 min read

Now that voters in Oregon have bucked decades of anti-tax tendencies to approve tax increases (and during a recession) that will generate new revenue for public schools, will other suffering states be heartened and follow suit?

Like most states, Oregon has had some daunting fiscal problems to address. Democrats there—with millions of dollars and campaign reinforcements from the state’s teachers’ union—sought the new taxes on corporations and wealthy residents to plug what would have been a $727 million budget gap that educators said would have pummeled schools and other vital services.

It sounds like the Democrats ran a savvy advertising campaign that played off the public’s anger toward corporate America and well-to-do folks (the increase will affect households with taxable income above $250,000), and despite the money and efforts of business moguls like Phil Knight of Nike, Inc., the unions prevailed.

So back to the question of whether this tax victory in Oregon will rub off on other states, like, for example, its neighbor to the south. Recent history doesn’t look too promising. Last year, California voters, on a 2—1 margin, rejected all but one of a package of ballot measures that would have raised some taxes temporarily and allowed the state to borrow billions of dollars in order to restore about $9 billion in earlier cuts to K-12 and community colleges. Bipartisan backing from Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democrats in the legislature, and labor unions wasn’t enough to persuade voters.

But with the budget shortfall still so massive in California and school districts like San Francisco Unified announcing new rounds of excruciating cuts, maybe voters would reconsider their position? On the other hand, it’s an election year in California and it’s not too likely that the folks vying for office are going to endorse higher taxes in a state with 12.4 percent unemployment and one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.

What do you think? Are there other states primed to raise taxes to help public schools weather the recession?

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.