Two months ago, I drove to Walla Walla one afternoon to make a couple of purchases. I don't like to shop outside of Pendleton, but in this case the model screen/storm door I wanted for my home was not available in Pendleton. Neither was the toilet part I needed since Pay-n-Pak moved out.
I picked up the screen door at The Lumberman, wrote a check for $75.59 and drove to the plumbing shop for the toilet part. It was then that I looked at the receipt for the door and noticed that I had paid $6 sales tax.
I know that had I told the salesperson I was from Oregon and had shown my driver's license I would not have been charged the sales tax. I decided not to drive clear across downtown Walla Walla in 5 o'clock traffic to get my $6 back.
As I drove back to Pendleton that summer evening, that sales tax started to bug me and I wondered just how many people paid $6 sales tax, some more, some less, in Walla Walla that day. And I let my mind wander to Vancouver, Olympia, Seattle, Bellingham, Wenatchee, Spokane and every little town in-between. How many thousand people paid a sales tax that day. I'm sure that essential food items, medical supplies and other tax exempt items are not taxed, but how many other items were taxed?
How many thousand dollars were collected that day. Surely enough to pay the salary of many school teachers, prison correction officers, police officers and other much needed personnel.
The next time you drive down I-84, pass the time by counting out-of-state car licenses. You will see Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, Utah and more. Oh, sure, they are paying a gasoline tax and if they stay in a motel, chances are they pay a room tax and if they smoke, they will pay one of the highest cigarette taxes in the country. But if they stop for a $20 dinner, no taxes.
I have a relative who lived and worked in Walla Walla for several years. I asked him which he preferred, an income tax or a sales tax. Without a moment's hesitation he answered "the sales tax, it's more fair and everybody pays."
I know that us old 75 to 80-year-old fuddy-duddies have voted down a sales tax umpteen times. But maybe someday it will come. First we have to get rid of that stupid law that lets people vote down any tax measure just by not voting. But maybe someday, when all the old fuddy-duddies are dead and gone, and when a younger generation is tired of seeing school teachers laid off, schools closed, prisoners turned out on the streets and we lose half our police protection, it will change. And maybe it will change when parents have to pay just to see their son play football or their daughter play basketball. Just maybe we will wise up and vote in a sales tax. As my dear old mother would say, "If you are going to dance you are going to pay the fiddler."
No, I didn't vote for a Democratic governor that has been known to favor a sales tax, but my guess is, he will think about it again.
I have been called a "damn ol' squarehead" and worse in the past 50 years for voicing my opinion and I will probably be called a few choice names again. In my younger years I was a baseball umpire working behind the plate and took my share of boos from the fans, but "I called 'em like I saw 'em." I'm just an old poker player who calls "a spade a spade."
Al Krege lives in Pendleton.