Is it time for a sales tax? Some Oregon lawmakers say it is

Is it time for a sales tax? Some Oregon lawmakers say it is »Play Video
State Senator Mark Hass is behind a proposed sales tax in Oregon.

PORTLAND, Ore. – It hasn’t been a popular idea in the past, but a group of Portland-area lawmakers think the time is right to propose a sales tax in Oregon.

The idea is to have a five percent tax on many things we buy, which would be coupled with tax breaks for homeowners and people with jobs. The proposal calls for cutting property and income taxes in half.

Even though voters have rejected other sales taxes a whopping nine times, supporters of the idea say that this time around some people could end up actually paying less in overall taxes.

State Senators Mark Hass and Ginny Burdick, as well as State Representative Tobias Read, are behind the idea. All three are Democrats.

Hass believes Oregon’s tax system puts our schools at too much risk and that it is the most volatile state revenue system in the country.

No other state is as dependent on a single tax as Oregon is on its income tax.

Hass sees a five percent sales tax as the only solution to avoid massive teacher layoffs and growing class sizes.

“We got to get out of this boom or bust cycle,” Hass said. “When you look at Oregon’s revenue system, because of the income tax it’s up and down and up and down. It looks like the Matterhorn.”

He argues that aside from helping education funding, creating a broader, more stable tax base would help businesses plan better and it would also help other government-funded services manage their staffs and resources.

The sales tax would be applied to items like cars, clothing and toys. Food, prescription drugs and utilities would not be taxed.

The plan also includes cuts to the capital gains and corporate taxes.

Renters would get some kind of rebate since they wouldn’t benefit from the drop in property taxes.

Lawmakers will debate the proposal when the next legislative session starts in the new year.

Read more: Details of the proposed sales tax