BEND, OR -- Four financial experts debated proposed tax legislation, Tuesday night, at the Bend Chamber What's Brewing? event. Taking part in the panel were Certified Public Accountant Wes Price, of Price Fronk & Co., Jeremy Rogers, with the Oregon Business Council, former Bend State Representative and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Knute Buehler, and Eileen Kiely, former Democratic candidate for House District 53 and a former operations controller for Daimler Trucks North America.
Price says the state's budget is already more than $76 billion. Rather than just demanding more money in taxes, he believes the budget should undergo a major review. "It just seems like there's a bent to just keep growing everything, without really trying to assess what we're really buying. Do we ever get to weigh in on whether it's really adding value?" Dr. Buehler agrees the state has enough to fund necessary services, "The Oregon state budget has gone up 44% over the last three budget cycles," He told the crowd at 10 Barrel, "I'm sure all of you would like to see that kind of revenue growth in your personal wages or your business. And, it's still not enough."
Kiely countered, saying that failing to increase revenue would lead to cuts to important programs, "Government's job is to allocate those social costs. You can't say that, 'Oh, we'll reduce taxes,' and not expect there to be some increase someplace else in our life." She added, "Either we have to create a whole new special-use tax, or we have to increase our corporate taxes. I'm of the opinion that individuals are carrying quite enough of the load, and it's time for our businesses to share that."
Rogers says one of the main reasons the state wants more money is the PERS liability, and the Legislature must add $1 billion dollars each budget cycle to fund the retirement program. "All jurisdictions in the state will collectively owe about $26 or $27 billion in debt. The way we have it set up is to pay it off over 20 years." Buehler says The PERS deficit should've been solved ages ago. He believes it made sense in the 80s when inflation was high, but says that's no longer the case, "That doesn't mean that's an agreement that is going to exist throughout the next 40 years, but that's what's happened because there has been this assumption that that is the deal going forward forever."
The 5.8 billion dollars worth of tax proposals being considered in the Legislature would fund education, Medicaid, and PERS, and experts say would primarily impact small business owners. Price says the people who find out last about new taxes being considered are those busy running their small businesses. "Now is the time that small business needs to be engaged in the conversation. The only way that we can get the message out is get in front of folks and deal with it; say something."