A Hermiston man has declared he's running against incumbent state Rep. Bob Jenson of Pendleton in the 2010 Republican primary.
Michael Mathisen said he's campaigning because the longest-serving member of the Oregon House voted for tax hikes in the last Legislature to help fill Oregon's budget shortfall.
"I'm running for state representative because I believe we need fewer taxes on Oregonians, not more," Mathisen said in a written statement. "Our current representative voted to raise taxes on Oregonians who are suffering under an economic recession. That's not how you create jobs and rebuild Oregon's struggling economy."
Jenson and fellow Eastern Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Smith irked the state GOP when they voted to raise taxes on individuals with taxable income exceeding $125,000 a year. Jenson also voted to increase Oregon's corporate tax from $10 a year to $150 a year and to base a corporation tax on its state sales.
State Republican and business interests were able to refer both bills to the ballot in January 2010. If they pass, the measures will generate about $733 million in revenue for Oregon. Mathisen's Facebook page showed he a "fan" of the group opposed to those measures.
Jenson said he knew when he made those votes he was recruiting a Republican opponent, but voting for the bills meant funding vital state services. The Pendleton School District had to cut 10 days out of the school year to meet its budget, and without the funds education will suffer.
"I've got to put the kids first," he said.
Jenson also said the arguments against these taxes are red herrings. Under the current tax structure, Jenson said, someone paying taxes on $300,000 a year would need to give the state about $26,000 in taxes. Under the ballot measure, bill, that would increase about $900.
"That doesn't seem to me like a real imposition," he said.
Furthermore, he said, the real issue isn't the proposed taxes, but the state budget the Legislature had to fund. The Oregon Constitution demands the Legislature raise taxes to meet the state's budget, he said, so the criticism should be about that.
"I think you sent me to Salem to try to do the best thing I can for the district and for the state," Jenson said, "and the way I looked at it, I didn't have any options."
Jenson has served in the Oregon House since 1997. The Oregon's elections Web site shows Jenson already has nearly $23,000 on hand for a campaign.
Mathisen's news release said his campaign "will focus on a back to basics budget with an emphasis on lowering taxes, encouraging job growth and reducing unemployment, funding education to focus on core issues and controlling government spending."
Mathisen didn't return a phone call by press time today, and the state elections division hasn't received his candidacy filing. He also hasn't filed campaign committee paperwork with the state.
A business name search on the Oregon corporate division Web site showed Mathisen owned an ice cream and cake business in Salem from 2002-05. Mathisen also has been an adoptive and foster parent for more than a decade, and early this year he wrote the children's book "Abby and the Helping Mommy" to help children understand the process of a child leaving their home and entering foster care.
Mathisen also is involved with a Hermiston community garden project and is the food services manager at Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla.