Porkland City Council is mulling over half a dozen possible additional changes to its new head "arts" tax today. They've been tweaking at it ever since they conned Porkland voters into approving it last November; most voters were completely unaware of the fact that what was portrayed at the time as a funding measure to restore arts classes in public schools For The Children™ was in fact set up to divert half of the funds thus obtained to civic organizations with established endowment funds, such as Porkland Symphony and the Opera, among other selected trough-feeders. Because, after all, those black-tie affairs are so important to children.
Now the Council's considering additional tweaks:
The options range from leaving the arts tax "as is" to upending it by calculating taxes based on taxable income, which could lead to big bills for the city's highest earners.
We're still waiting to see how the legal action by Lewis & Clark tax law perfesser John Bogdanski challenging the constitutionality of the thing pans out, but in any case, we aren't paying because the wording of the measure provides a loophole big enough to drive a semi through:
You are generally considered a Portland resident (even if you live outside Portland) if you are “domiciled” in Portland. If you think of Portland as your permanent home, the center of your financial, social and family life, and Portland is the place you intend to come back to when you are away, you are considered to be domiciled in Portland.
Obviously, this wording was adopted in an effort to strong-arm residents of unincorporated Washington County (think Garden Home), Multnomah County, and even Clackamas County into paying up because they happen to live at or near the boundaries of the City of Porkland. However, the wording works in ways that they hadn't considered, as well: as an example, we happen to live barely inside the boundary of Southwest Porkland, but we do all of our grocery shopping, clothes shopping, automotive, banking, home improvement, and other shopping exclusively in Washington County. Our friends live for the most part in Washington County and Clark County. And so we don't think of Portland as your permanent home, the center of our financial, social and family life.
Inasmuch as we don't meet those criteria, there's no reason for us to pay their new tax.
And in any case, if the city still has to fiddle around with the thing a full eight months after they sold it as For The Children™, it clearly needs to be dumped, rewritten, and re-sold. And this time, not as a pig in a poke.
UPDATE: Bogdanski has filed an appeal with Oregon Tax Court.
Van Dyke was joined by Commissioner Nick Fish in his optimism that the tax would continue to withstand legal challenges. (Van Dyke did also suggest that making the tax more progressive would help that cause.)
But Commissioner Steve Novick was quick with a potentially applicable bromide, noting how resounding victories in one court can sometimes turn into resounding defeats in higher courts:
"As Yogi said, 'It ain't over 'til it's over.'"
Van Dyke is the city attorney; it's interesting that he favors a scheme, some eight months in, to amend the tax to make it "more progressive" - and thus more likely to withstand the legal challenge. As it was written, the new tax does appear to be a $35-a-head tax, which is unconstitutional in Oregon. By rewriting it to make it "more progressive", the city might be able to negate that argument entirely. On the other hand, it remains that what they've been doing, in tinkering around with it, renders it completely different from the tax proposal that they sold to gullivle voters.
UPDATED 4:33 PM.