Oregon Tries to Catch California – On the way down!

Oregon’s voters will soon give their judgment on Measures 66 and 67, measures that will raise income and corporate taxes in the recession-ravaged state – with unemployment at 11.1 percent, the eighth highest in the nation. Besides leaving the state with the highest marginal rate in the country, tied with Hawaii, more insidiously measure 67 will impose a minimum tax based on sales, not profits, implying an infinite marginal tax rate for low-profit companies.

This is not good news for businesses and citizens of Oregon. In a report titled Tax Policy and the Oregon Economy: The Effects of Measures 66 and 67, Two Cascade Policy Institute economists, Eric Fruits and Randall Pozdena, thoroughly review the literature on the impacts of tax increases on jobs and domestic migration, and they rigorously analyze the measures’ impact on Oregon jobs and migration.

They estimate the new measures through 2018, will cost Oregon employment losses of “approximately 47,000.”

Finally, Fruits and Pozdena examine the impacts of measures 66 and 67 on migration. They find that adoption of measures 66 and 67 will result in the loss of approximately 80,000 Oregon tax filers with a loss of $5.6 billion in adjusted gross income.

These results have to be taken as the minimum impacts. Fruits and Pozdena are careful researchers. They do nothing that is not completely defensible. Consequently, because of statistical issues, some of the potential impacts, particularly those of measure 67’s minimum tax based on sales are almost surely under measured.

Clearly Oregon , where many residents look down on the increasingly bedraggled Golden State seems anxious to follow California’s decline trajectory. We all know how that story ends: high unemployment, domestic out-migration, declining jobs, declining opportunity, and a vanishing middleclass.

I am not alone in seeing the warning signs.

The PEW Center on the States issued a report in November 2009 titled Beyond California: States in Fiscal Peril. PEW created an index using foreclosure rates, job losses, state revenues, budget gaps supermajority requirements, and money-management practices. The index resulted in values ranging from 6, Wyoming, to 30 California. Higher values are bad here, and the closer to California’s 30, the more a state is at risk of California-style fiscal problems. Oregon, with a value of 26 is listed as one of nine states that the PEW researchers consider at high risk.

Then there’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s recently released Small Business Survival Index. They use a much larger set of variables to create their index of public policy climates for entrepreneurship, a total of 39 indicators covering tax policy, regulation, crime rates, costs, and more. This index results in values ranging from 25.7 for South Dakota to 84 for the District of Columbia. As with the previous index, high numbers are bad. California, with a score of 77.7 is the second worst state, behind only New Jersey. Oregon’s score is 65.2, the 38th among states, and dangerously close to California’s score.