Where’s the plan for jobs?

By The Bend Bulletin editorial August 07, 2013 08:39 am

Gov. John Kitzhaber is on a kind of campaign to suppress the crazy. He would like to see the state do something about its dependence on income taxes.

“It’s a crazy way to fund education, totally,” Kitzhaber said recently, according to The Oregonian. “The way to change it is put something on the ballot that either increases income tax, or adds either a statewide property tax or sales tax.”

Kitzhaber won’t get any argument from us about efforts to create a tax system with less crazy. We’ve argued before that a statewide sales tax could make sense to stabilize the state’s topsy-turvy revenue as long as it was paired with reductions in property taxes.

But it shouldn’t just be about more taxes.

State officials would have to be crazy to think that would pass.

Oregon is a state that has struggled to do more with less. Oregon’s per capita personal income “has grown over time, but it hasn’t grown as fast as the (per capita personal income) of some other states, nor as fast as the national average.” The Oregon Employment Department announced that a few years ago in a not-so-cheerily-titled report called “Why Oregon Trails the Nation.”

Not much has changed.

What it means is that, unless Oregon does more education, public safety and health care with less money, its state services could trail the nation.

So it would be crazy to think that increasing the burden on taxpayers is the answer. You shouldn’t try to make a problem of less income go away by taking more income.

Kitzhaber has been adept at pushing strategies he hopes will lead to smarter spending on health care, education and prisons. As much as those may prove to help all Oregonians, Oregon really needs a business growth strategy, too.

Maybe Kitzhaber is still secretly stockpiling ideas for his dramatic plan for jobs and innovation. We have to believe he’s capable. He showed he was willing to call a swashbuckler of a special session to help Nike. He has gotten behind efforts to help Oregon’s film industry, and his regional solution centers could come up with some regional solutions.

Maybe in the long run — whenever that is — the Oregon Employment Department will be cheerily penning “Why Oregon Leads the Nation.” But that won’t happen in anything like the short run unless it gets some more help from the governor.