Keizer Public Square

Public Square welcomes all points of view. Published submissions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Keizertimes 

Paying taxes

Tax day, April 15, is one week from Monday. That fact causes many different emotional reactions. 

By now, most taxpayers know what they will owe or how much they will get in refunds. Those getting a refund from the IRS and the Oregon Department of Revenue are thinking of ways to spend that refund money. For some people, it is mad money, for others, it is earmarked for outstanding bills or a project. 

Taxes in America have elicited a negative reaction dating back to 1978 when California voters passed Proposition 13, an amendment of the state’s Constitution that restricted increases of property taxes. It required assessment of each taxable property based on its fair market value and limited a property owner’s general levy tax to 1% of the assessed value. 

That opened the door across the nation for like-minded ballot measures to limit property taxes. 

It’s said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. One is natural, one is man made. 

Most people rail against taxation and rant how much of their income goes to taxes on the national, state and local levels. Complaining about taxes is an American pastime. Yet, how many taxpayers take a moment or two to think about how tax revenues are spent. 

Citizens of the United States have the ability to control the amount they are taxed: elections. People pay less money to the federal government now than ever before. A look at one’s county tax report will demonstrate that thousands of dollars are collected and appropriated by a variety of local taxing districts: public school districts, fire districts, higher education (i.e., Chemeketa) and taxes for other entities, all approved by a majority of voters. Unfortunately, voter turnout is low for elections featuring bond or levy measures. 

Government is not cheap. At all levels, governments must pay employees prevailing wages plus their benefits, supplies, programs and a myriad of other expenses. 

Tax cuts are the cure-all for politicians. Constituents respond well to tax cuts. A question to be asked by office holders and the citizenry alike though is: what am I willing to live without? That question resonates more with local governments. 

Tax cuts can translate to a cut in services. Who decides what are essential services? The people of Keizer have spoken repeatedly over the years that public safety is job number one for the city. Seventy-percent of the city’s general fund budget is dedicated to the Keizer Police Department. 

After public safety come the issues of quality of life: parks, clean and maintained streets, reliable, clean and safe water. 

A call for a reduction in taxes is rarely paired with a conversation of what services or programs can responsibly be reduced or cut. 

Everyone has their pet service and there will never be total agreement on what should be saved. 

Taxes are necessary for society to have the kind of community in which they wish to live. April 15 looms large on the calendar, the prime time to consider what we all pay for. — LAZ 

What the 2024 legislature did 

BY Kevin Mannix

After a whirlwind five-week session, the Legislature adjourned two days ahead of the constitutional deadline in March. I am proud of all that was accomplished for the Keizer- Salem area and all of Oregon. I want to use this opportunity to share a few of those wins with you. 

When we entered the session, it was clear that something had to be done to address Measure 110, which decriminalized hard drug use in our state. The Legislature was able to pass House Bill 4002 to do just that. This legislation is a step in the right direction. 

The essential element of House Bill 4002 is the establishment of an unclassified misdemeanor regarding the possession of hard drugs, so we can hold drug users accountable and use this accountability to press them into treatment. We also set up the framework for comprehensive drug rehabilitation programs. 

House Bill 4002, and its companion funding bill, House Bill 5204, gives law enforcement and community treatment providers the tools to confiscate hard drugs, keep people safe, and connect people struggling with addiction into treatment. 

I am pleased that my two priority bills for the session, the Modernization of Oregon’s Anti- Stalking Law and Oregon’s Student Protection Law, passed in both the House and the Senate and are expected to be signed by the governor. 

In 1995, I wrote the original anti-stalking law in Oregon. While this has worked well for the areas it covers, society now has a modern internet and electronic communications to deal with. The Modernization of Oregon’s Anti-Stalking Law, now House Bill 4156, broadens the scope of the stalking law to cover many new kinds of electronic and internet harassment, including efforts to damage a victim’s identity and credit rating. I was proud to work in partnership on this legislation with Ms. Oregon, Amber Rosenberry, a former stalking victim and advocate for stalking victims. 

I was happy to partner with the Salem-Keizer School District on Oregon’s Student Protection Law, or House Bill 4160. This legislation is designed to reduce the opportunity for predatory sexual behavior by educators who work with children. Under current law, a “student” remains a student only 90 days after graduation/leaving the school. This period is not long enough for the influential relationship of a teacher, coach, or other meaningful school related relationship to become less powerful. House Bill 4160 extends that protection to students for a full year after graduation/leaving the school. 

This Legislative Session also brought a new opportunity for me —the ability to serve on the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which determines the state budget policy. Through this role, I was able to advocate for several critical funding needs within our community, and am proud to have secured funding for the following projects in the Keizer-Salem area: 

$11,500,000 for the Bridgeway Medical Center —This funding will be utilized for the development of a medical center and substance use disorder residential treatment facility. 

$3,000,000 for the Salem Baseball / Softball Turf Project—This funding will establish turf fields for baseball and softball that are available to the Salem-Keizer School District. 

$750,000 for the Center for Hope and Safety—This funding will go towards the development of the Hope Plaza which is affordable housing and services for victims of domestic violence. 

$3,000,000 for the Family YMCA of Marion and Polk County —This funding will be utilized to develop a centralized social service and resource center and affordable housing in Salem at the YMCA of Marion and Polk Counties. 

$400,000 for the Vietnam War Memorial Fund—This funding provides the amount needed to finish Phase I of the project on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds. 

$150,000 for the Eco Earth Globe in Salem’s Riverfront Park —This globe is a lovely landmark which needs to be fully and professionally refurbished. 

It truly is an honor to represent this community in the Oregon Legislature. If you have any questions about this past session, please reach out to me; I would love to hear from you. 

(Kevin Mannix (R) represents Oregon House District 21. He can be reached at the Capitol by emailing Rep.KevinMannix@ oregonlegislature.gov or by calling 503-986-1421.

Cost of electricity to go up 

BY Jim Parr

Portland General Electric (PGE) is asking the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for another rate increase and this time they are asking to also increase their profit margin on behalf of their shareholders. If approved as requested, your electric bill will go up once again. 

As a customer, you have a choice to make. You can shrug your shoulders and roll with the increase or you can offset the increase by simply using less electricity. Learn to live in the dark for a greater part of your day. Adapt to being colder in the winter and hotter in the summer. Stay off of your devices and watch less TV. In other words, lower your standard of living. But this isn’t fair. When you compensate by using less electricity, PGE wins twice. When customers use less power, PGE can reduce its purchase and/ or generation costs even while rates have gone up. 

So how else can you use less electricity? Since you are going to spend more money anyway, why not invest in your own small power plant? Assemble a small backyard solar or wind and storage (battery pack) system and use it to charge all of your devices and to provide some outdoor lighting. Do not hook up to the grid. Do not share your power plant with PGE. Keep your investment and the benefits for yourself. 

You can also become (perhaps you already are) a very frugal consumer of electricity. But this can be unfair as well. Check your billing rate. The customers that are using the least amount of electricity each month pay the highest per unit cost or rate. Large consumers, including most commercial customers, pay a much lower per unit cost than the customer who minimizes his use. This practice goes against the important incentive to protect the environment and conserve resources. 

When the Rural Electrification Act) REA brought electricity to the West beginning in 1936, the intent and plan was that power would be made available and distributed by non-profit cooperatives. So how did we get from 1936 to now? PGE, as a monopoly, enjoys the immense benefit of having a captive customer base. Unlike most businesses, they do not have to expend time and effort competing for customers. You can ponder all of this it when you open your next bill from PGE and notice that even as they are asking you to pay more, they always include the envelope asking if you can donate to help those needing help with their electric bill. At what point, and when, does the cost preclude the ability of the average customer to help others? 

(Jim Parr lives in Keizer.) 

Trump makes it hard to support him 


I’m not a Never Trumper. To the contrary, I’ve spilled gallons of ink in the pages of this newspaper defending him. Based on his record in office, Trump should be considered one of the greatest conservative presidents we’ve had. But I’m deeply concerned that his second term, if he is elected this year, would not be the one that millions of Americans voted for in 2020. 

Case in point: After meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Friday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Trump assured him he “will not give a penny” to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression. If true, that’s not the Trump I want to vote for. 

I want to vote for the president who, on taking office, reversed the Obama-Biden policy of denying Ukraine the lethal aid and sent Kyiv Javelin antitank missiles—weapons that later helped turn back Russia’s effort to march on the Ukrainian capital in 2022. “I sent them military equipment and Obama sent them nothing,” he boasted to me during a 2020 interview. I can’t vote for a candidate who would abandon Ukraine to Vladimir Putin. 

I want to vote for the Trump who proudly told me in that interview, “Nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have”—and then offered a litany of actions he had taken to counteract Russia—from arming Ukraine, to blocking the Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline, to taking out hundreds of Russian Wagner mercenaries in Syria, to launching a cyberattack against Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the troll farm that spearheaded Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

I want to vote for the commander in chief who signed an executive order barring U.S. companies from transactions with TikTok’s Chinese-controlled owner ByteDance, warning that TikTok allows “the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information,” which could allow Beijing to “build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.” I want to vote for the president who took on China’s predatory trade practices, signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and sanctioned Beijing for its suppression of the Uyghurs. 

I also want to vote for the Trump who was willing to flex U.S. military might on the world stage—the president took out Iranian terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani and twice launched military strikes against Syria for using chemical weapons against civilians, and whose policy of peace through strength produced three Arab-Israeli peace accords. Now, I worry that he is surrounding himself with neo-isolationists such as Tulsi Gabbard, J.D. Vance, Tucker Carlson and Vivek Ramaswamy rather than the Reagan Republicans who helped him achieve so much. He seems more concerned with seeking retribution and weeding out RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) than working with the best, most capable people. 

I also want to vote against some things. I want to vote against Joe Biden, the president who gave us the worst border crisis in U.S. history, the worst inflation in four decades, and highest gas prices ever recorded in the United States. I want to vote against a president whose administration weaponized the FBI to intimidate parents who show up at school board meetings, allowed a Chinese spy balloon to violate U.S. airspace, I want to vote against a president who promised to put his “whole soul” into uniting the country but then accused Republicans of standing with racists and traitors like George Wallace, Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis. 

And I want to vote against a Democratic Party that has shamefully weaponized our legal system against Trump—seeking to jail and bankrupt him and abusing our Constitution in an effort to keep him off the ballot. 

But I can’t do that if I believe that Trump’s second term won’t be a continuation of the best elements of his first, but a radical departure focused on revenge and retreat from the world. I know that many other voters might have different concerns than I do. Many liked Trump’s policies, but don’t like how he behaved in office— particularly after the 2020 election. Trump needs to make a concerted effort to win their support. He might believe they have no choice but to vote for him. They do. There will be third parties on the ballot, and voters can write in other candidates, split their tickets, or just stay home. 

As for me, while Jan. 6, 2021, was a disgrace, the system of strong checks and balances our Founding Fathers established held that day. So, I don’t believe the hyperbolic warnings that Trump will be a dictator. I’m just worried he will let real dictators prevail. I can’t vote for that. 

With less than eight months to go, this much is certain: I’ll never vote for Joe Biden. He is the worst president in my lifetime. And I want to vote for Trump. But he needs to give me— and millions like me—permission to do so. 

(Washington Post

Contact Keizertimes Staff:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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