I was always taught that if something sounded too good to be true, it wasn't true. That was my reaction after seeing a Facebook post from my State Sen. Bill Kennemer promoting Initiative Petition 10. He and other Republican state senators are pushing IP 10 to freeze the assessed value on the residences on seniors aged 65 or older. My initial thought was that it sounded good, but there are always unintended consequences.
Since I am in that age bracket, I took a sharper look. The first thing I noticed is that it does not have any income qualifier. Not all seniors are poor. Those who can pay for vital public services should pay for them. Seniors who are poor can be treated differently, but the measure, as written, does not make that distinction.
IP 10 material also proudly announces that local governments would receive the same revenue as in the year before the freeze. How many readers want to go to the grocery store with your budget from last year or two years ago to pay the current prices of groceries? I doubt if many would.
I should also point out that the number-one service provided by almost all local governments are public safety services critically important to seniors. Oregon has mandatory arbitration for public safety unions. An assessment freeze would just make it all that much more difficult for local governments to pay the wage costs of firefighters and law enforcement officers, thereby having to reduce budgets to fit tightening.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. This measure needs to redrafted to address some of these issues and be subjected to an exhaustive financial review to identify other unanticipated consequences. As it stands, it's no better than just pandering to seniors.
Tom Feely is a former member of the Clackamas County Budget Committee and a resident of unincorporated north Clackamas County.
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