It is not healthy for Gov. Kitzhaber to win a fourth term by default.
It would be easier to find Sasquatch than for Oregon voters to enact a sales tax. Nine attempts have failed. None gained more than 29 percent support. One of those elections broke Gov. Tom McCalls heart.
So why, you might ask, is John Kitzhaber basing his campaign for an unprecedented fourth term as governor on tax reform with a hint of sales tax?
It is true that Oregonians widely believe there is inequity in our tax system. But that perception is about tax rates, not about enthusiasm for another tax.
Economists will note two things about the sales tax. It is regressive, penalizing the poor and low income disproportionately. And once a sales tax is implemented, its rate will inexorably climb.
If Oregon had a viable Republican Party, Kitzhaber would have a race. If the GOP nominates an agile candidate that might still occur. A good baseline opposition campaign ad would be: Isnt three terms enough?
There is a drawback for Democrats in Kitzhabers imitation of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His presence in the governors suite for so long is crowding out Democratic talent. During the 1970s it was said that talented Washington state Democratic politicians grew old waiting for Warren Magnuson and Henry Jackson to quit.
Most revealing is what Kitzhaber is not trumpeting. With his legislative history, he should be running on health care. But with the dismal rollout of Cover Oregon, he cant go there.
Even tax reform is problematic for Kitzhaber. He has given Nike and Intel special tax deals to which average Oregon businesses cannot aspire.
The Republican Partys inability to compete statewide haunts us. If the party will nominate more moderate candidates, they will regain viability in a governors race, for instance.
It does Oregon no good to have Gov. Kizhaber win a fourth term by default.