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Oregon Passes Progressive Taxation Laws

Last night, voters in Oregon passed Measures 66 and 67, which fill a state budget gap of $727 million with new taxes on corporations and households making over $250,000. The money will go to public schools and other areas of the budget.

“Tonight, I want to thank Oregonians for voting to protect critical public services during this difficult economic period,” Gov. Ted Kulongoski said in a statement. “Even with this result, we still have some challenges before us. It is going to be a slow growth recovery from this recession for Oregon and the entire nation.”

This is more than just a ballot campaign, it’s a lesson for Democrats. Traditional media reports would have you believe that we’re experiencing a replay of 1994, that the country is lurching back to the center-right, and the tea partiers are taking over. In fact, progressives ran this campaign in Oregon against a well-funded lobby of major state corporations like Nike and the corporate tea party front group FreedomWorks. And they energized progressives, organized and won, and pretty easily so. This twists the narrative that all Democrats are morose and demobilized – actually, when you give them a positive choice, when you offer a progressive policy like tax fairness, they will not only choose it, but get excited about it. And conservatives will lose in a game of numbers.

Kevin Looper, the campaign director, summed it up pretty well.

“I hold in my hand, from June 21st, the Oregonian headline, saying Democrats Bet Against History on Tax Hikes,” said Kevin Looper, who directed the campaign. “If this victory says anything, and I think it says a lot, it says that when leaders actually have the courage to stand up for the little people, when they give them something to vote for, the people are with them.”

“We knocked on 300,000 doors,” he said. “That’s the same as if one person walked to New York, and then walked all the way around the world.”

Three guesses if any cable news host will pay attention to this.

UPDATE: As The Oregonian notes, this is particularly unusual for Oregon, which has voted down nine tax measures in its recent history and hadn’t approved something of this kind since the 1930s.

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David Dayen

David Dayen