PORTLAND, Ore. —If any Americans are willing to fork over more to state governments in 2010, it might just be those of Oregon, where voters are deciding the fate of two proposed tax increases that target the wealthy and corporations.
For the past two weeks, Oregon voters have been marking referendum ballots on two tax issues, one raising rates on people who make more than $125,000 a year in taxable income — $250,000 for joint filers — and on businesses, many of whom pay a minimum tax of $10 a year.
The mailed-in and dropped-off votes will be counted Tuesday. The results could give legislators in other states a hint about whether they can ask taxpayers for help in repairing ravaged budgets.
The only independent polls made public so far show the tax increases ahead but with shrinking margins. If they pass, that would be a break with history. Despite Oregon's reputation for left-leaning politics, voters have often shot down tax measures.
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Here and there in legislative sessions just getting under way in January, leaders have talked about or pushed tax increases, as in Kansas, Arizona, Illinois and Washington state.
"What we hear over and over again from the states is that everything is on the table," said Arturo Perez, a fiscal analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Oregon's tax increases came out of a legislative session last year in which Democrats with commanding majorities pared the budget, deployed some reserves, parceled out federal stimulus dollars, and tiptoed around tax increases that would have hit large numbers of Oregonians.
They assumed any tax measures would be referred to the voters, as is routine in Oregon, and would face difficulty, as is also routine.
Nine times since the 1930s, for example, Oregon voters have rejected sales tax proposals, leaving the state government relying primarily on income taxes at some of the highest rates in the nation and secondarily on lottery proceeds. Twice in the past decade, voters have rejected broad-based income tax increases.