Shortfall? Kicker in cards for Oregon taxpayers

Kicker 'worst fiscal management law we've ever achieved'

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem, May 4, 2017 (KOIN)
The Oregon State Capitol in Salem, May 4, 2017 (KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — A strong economy means there’s a chance Oregon’s kicker tax refund could once again be triggered.

It could be in excess of $400 million, money that lawmakers would love to use to help balance the state budget. But if real revenue this year exceeds projected revenue by at least 2%, the state constitution mandates it goes back to the taxpayers.

Bob Estabrook with the Oregon Department of Revenue, May 4, 2017 (KOIN)
Bob Estabrook with the Oregon Department of Revenue, May 4, 2017 (KOIN)

Since Oregon voters approved the kicker law 37 years ago, taxpayers have gotten refunds 9 times, including 2015.

The recent uptick in the economy is now pumping more tax revenue into the general fund than economic forecasters predicted, a trend that could continue.

“We’re going to keep an eye on it,” said Bob Estabrook with the Oregon Department of Revenue. “If we have to, then we will scramble and we will make sure that we’re ready to do the refund to taxpayers.”

The first quarter of this year, revenue beat projections by around $210 million, moving closer to the 2% figure.

Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland), May 4, 2017 (KOIN)
Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland), May 4, 2017 (KOIN)

But people like Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland) hope the gap starts to close again and keeps the kicker from being triggered.

“The kicker is one of the worst fiscal management laws that we’ve ever achieved,” Nosse told KOIN 6 News.

Supporters of the kicker say it helps keep lawmakers spending in check. Now, with a budget hole of about $1.6 billion, they’re watching closely to see if those several hundred million dollars will be around to help.

“It’s possible that if it’s a close thing we may not know until the fall, until that final accounting is done whether there’s going to be a kicker or not,” Estabrook said.