Monday, December 19, 2011

Second Tax Credit Auction Draws Few Bidders

You may recall that last month the state tried to raise some cash by auctioning off 1,500 tax credits worth $1,000 each. If all of the credits had been purchased for the minimum bid amount of $950 apiece, that would have brought in more than $1.4 million, which was earmarked for renewable energy grants. But lawmakers, who authorized the tax credit auction, severely overestimated the appetite for these credits. Just 408 of the credits sold, bringing in less than a third of the potential revenue.

So, the Department of Revenue and the Department of Energy--the two agencies in charge of running the tax credit auction--decided to go for round two. Well, the results are in...and not too many Oregonians will be getting tax credits in their stocking this year, apparently. The Department of Revenue reports that just nine people submitted bids for a total of 55 tax credits purchased.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our Oregon Files Slate of Occupy-ish Initiatives

Over the past month, the union-backed group Our Oregon has filed more than a dozen initiative petitions for the 2012 Oregon ballot. Many of them carry subject lines that would sound right at home at an Occupy rally. The group dubbed one petition "Tax the 1%".  Another is called "Millionaires Should Pay Their Fair Share."  Those are among several that would create a new tax bracket for the wealthiest Oregonians. Some of the other petitions take aim at another target of the Occupy movement. This one is entitled "Large Corporations Should Pay Their Fair Share."

It's no coincidence that these petitions have Occupy-inspired terminology. Our Oregon spokesman Scott Moore says "The themes that have been brought to the fore by the Occupy movement are what we've been talking about as an organization for 6 years, so it shouldn't surprise anybody that we share in the same goals." Why so many petitions? Moore says the goal at this point is "to get the conversation started about the need for funding for our schools and our basic services."

Getting a petition on the ballot is a lengthy and expensive process, and it will be at least a month--and likely longer--until Our Oregon gets the go-ahead to actually start collecting signatures on any of these petitions. You can be sure they won't actually try to get all 13 on the ballot, especially the ones that are virtually redundant. Moore says Our Oregon will consider the "political viability" of the petitions as well as how much revenue their analysts predict the proposals would actually bring in.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Salem's Rotunda Is Occupied...With Holiday Music

A choir performs at the state capitol in Salem.
You just can't help but marvel at the contrast between Salem and Olympia this week. My colleague Austin Jenkins has been chronicling the unfolding drama as protests and arrests have marked the tense opening days of a high-stakes special session in Olympia. In Salem, meanwhile, the rotunda was filled with holiday music and an abundance of felicity. Even Occupy Salem, which had staked out the west end of the capitol grounds since early October, packed up and left peacefully this week--but not before holding a cleaning party. (Indeed, in advance of today's deadline to leave, issued by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, it's nearly impossible to tell that anyone was camping out on the capitol grounds over the past two months.)

Of course, there are some holiday activities planned in Olympia, where Christmas has at times been a bit of a touchy subject. And Salem won't make it through the winter without its own dose of politics: Lawmakers will return to the capitol in February for a month-long session, in the face of an ever-bleaker revenue outlook.