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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pollution solution delusion

One reason for that big tax bill
Polluters don't pay their fair share and ordinary Oregonians pay through the nose

Every hard copy of a newspaper or magazine sold in Oregon puts a tiny new strain on the roads, sewers and parks. The publishers' ads help pay for that. They don't help pay for the environment, schools or public safety, however. Not one dime.

Not even when they spew enough paper-stream waste and release enough benzene and CO2 to destroy an entire elementary school and spur a new school bond.

This is a slap in the face to all Oregonians who pay more than their fair share in taxes for clean energy and new schools. Before state lawmakers can address the problem, they must reject Senate Bill 366, a wrong-minded measure that would shield news-printing polluters and rip-off home-buyers at real estate closings with outrageous and unfair "impact title fees" of up to $6,500 per family going to school district unions.

The bill wouldn't solve Oregon's environmental and land-use woes, and it would not address a glaring inequity facing Oregonians who advertise and get away with polluting Oregon, scott-free.

SB366's this thinly-disguised tax is not intended to speed the green transition away from newsprint or reduce school bonds by one red cent: Voters still will still be held hostage by Oregon's enormously powerful government unions to pass local bonds or face closure of libraries, schools, and police precinct stations. The mandatory fee is simply a way to discourage any limit on collectivism without accomplishing anything else.

Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, the chief sponsor, says, "So what if it would raise the overall tax burden and prevent some seniors from staying in their homes? We see it as a bipartisan win to satisfy a campaign pledge we made to Si Newhouse."

Some lawmakers want to push the $6,500 cap even higher. We'd encourage them drop the whole concept and focus on taxing newsprint to pay for environmental remediation instead. The rest of the bill is beyond unfair: the fee-setting process would completely lack transparency. What's more, newspapers are classified as "critical infrastructure," which allows them to maintain the facade that their environmental responsibility is optional.

The taxpaying public knows better. So do readers who are increasingly canceling their subscriptions to The Oregonian, and so should lawmakers. Oregon is more than ready for a smarter way to clean up after the state's worst polluters.


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