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Oregon Democrats Should Meddle More

November 27th, 2019 by dk

Oregon is a blue state. All but one of our Congresspeople are Democrats. Every statewide elected office is held by a Democrat, except one. The state hasn’t given its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate in decades. Our state legislature is solidly Democrat in both chambers. When it comes to statewide policies, Democrats are in control.

So answer me this. Why is the state’s deadline for property tax bills to be mailed to homeowners so close to when November ballots arrive? Since the mail contains so few surprises for most of us anymore, why would Democrats put ballots in people’s hands when sticker shock on their year-end tax bill is still fresh?

Anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore couldn’t have come up with a more devious plan, unless he wrote an initiative requiring local governments to save on postage by putting the November ballot and the tax bill in the same envelope.

My property tax bill in Connecticut came in the summer, to be paid in two installments — one in July and one in December. A quick survey of other states’ practices found property tax bills are mailed often in the spring or summer, or earlier in the fall. Oregon’s timetable is not unique, but it also could be changed.

Property taxes are different from other taxes, at least for some. Income taxes are typically withheld from weekly paychecks. Business owners usually make estimated quarterly payments throughout the year. April 15 represents mostly a dreaded paperwork deadline and not much more. Other taxes are paid with every purchase (gas) or every month (utilities).

Only property taxes cause true sticker shock, especially for the elderly. If you’re paying a mortgage, your property taxes are rolled into your monthly payments. But if your house is paid off, you’re reminded once a year that no, actually, it’s not paid off entirely. Leave your property taxes unpaid for too long, and it won’t be your house anymore.

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren says on the presidential campaign trail, property taxes are the wealth tax America already has. Good for us.

I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why October 25 is the mandated issuing deadline in Oregon. I’m sure those reasons have to do with fiscal responsibility, measured workflows, and general good governance. But none of those reasons involve the political impact of the practice.

Republicans play the game differently — or they are playing a different game altogether. They couldn’t stop Obamacare’s implementation, but they did manage to require the next year’s insurance premium increases to be announced by late October, so voters would be mad before they voted in November.

Oregon’s Democratic majorities are robust, so they are shielded from most of this timing tomfoolery. But that’s no comfort to a school board with an urgent bond measure, wary of the voters’ mood in November. Or to any politician running a tight race against an anti-tax candidate.

Oregon’s Democratic leaders should rearrange the state’s taxing calendar so it doesn’t align so closely with its electoral calendar. If they don’t address it while their majorities are comfortable, those majorities may not last.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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