This winter, as taxpayers have been preparing their 2008 income tax returns, they've been reminded last year they received one of Oregon's infamous kicker checks - in some cases a fairly large one at that.

It would be interesting, a year later, how many taxpayers could specifically identify exactly what they did with that check.

We suspect many of them would be hard-pressed to figure out where the money went.

It appears this spring, while there won't be a kicker check, those same taxpayers are going to get an upfront and personal look at what might have happened to that $1.2 billion if it hadn't been passed out during a period of upturn in Oregon's economy.

Many Oregon parents who suddenly find the school year shortened by 10 days will get a chance to pay out several hundred dollars in extra child-care expenses. It's possible the extra costs of having their children out of school for two or three weeks could exceed the value of the check they received a year ago.

How does that kicker check look now?

The State of Oregon is going to cut $885 million from its budget between now and June 30. The amount becomes larger in terms of public budgets because it must be recovered over a very short period. Spreading out cuts like this over a longer period, say 12 months, reduces some of the sting.

In order to plug the gap in Oregon's economy, both this spring and during the next biennium, legislators are talking about taxes on corporations, tobacco, alcohol, gasoline and hospitals.

Alcohol and tobacco represent personal choices so consumers can make individual choices regarding whether or not they wish to pay the tax. Medical care, particularly hospital use, is often not discretionary. Neither is gasoline, a commodity necessary for getting to and from jobs and for carrying out business activities. The legislature isn't going to pick out areas where consumers are apt to avoid the tax - that defeats their purpose in terms of new revenue.

How does that kicker check look now?

In 1982, the timber industry tanked, unemployment stood at 12.1 percent, storefronts emptied, and Vic Atiyeh was governor. He imposed an income tax surcharge that was accepted without much resistance from Oregonians. A similar move, in 2003, met with a wave of resistance from a movement led by Kevin Mannix. Despite the $3 billion shortfall, the climate today doesn't suggest such a surcharge would have smooth sailing even if it would help weather the current storm.

How does that kicker check look now?

It's a little late for a do-over in terms of the last round of kicker checks. But if Oregonians are seriously interested in getting off a merry-go-round of budgetary highs and lows, it is the time to take steps to alleviate the problem in the future.

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