Water Tax on farmers stopped

Oregonians In Action Defeats New Tax on Rural Property Owners
By Dave Hunnicutt,
Oregonians In Action

In April, we reported on a plan by the Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD) to impose an “exempt use well fee” that would apply to every rural property owner in Oregon with a domestic well.

As we reported, the WRD planned to ask the Oregon legislature to create a new annual tax for every rural Oregon homeowner with a well. The WRD, like all state agencies, currently receives its funding from the state general fund, which is composed primarily of money which the state generates from income taxes paid by Oregon citizens.

The WRD complains that it shouldn’t have to rely on the general fund, as the amount of money the state has to spend rises and falls with the economy.

Apparently, the WRD believes that even though the public is suffering through a prolonged recession, they shouldn’t be affected, and they shouldn’t have to appear before the legislature and make their case for why they should receive precious tax dollars that would otherwise go to schools, police, and other important services.

In an effort to avoid having to address the legislature each biennium and explain why the WRD programs have merit, like every other state agency, the WRD proposed the exempt use well fee. The gist of the fee was that every rural domestic well user would have to pay an annual fee to the WRD to enable the WRD to continue its programs.

People who don’t have domestic wells wouldn’t be required to pay a dime, and cities using thousands of gallons of well water each day would pay the same fee as a family of four using 150 gallons.

In the meantime, people and cities using surface water wouldn’t pay a dime under the WRD plan, nor would Oregon residents using municipal water, which obviously is the vast majority of Oregonians.

In other words, the WRD planned to target rural Oregon homeowners to pay the entire costs for an agency that claims to benefit all Oregonians.

The WRD believed this was a fair tax.

OIA was the only group to report on the WRD’s plan, but it made news. After we sent our email, people started talking about the WRD proposal, and radio hosts like Lars Larson passed the word along.

As a result of our efforts, Governor Kitzhaber intervened, and asked the WRD to shelve their plans to create the new tax. The WRD is exploring other options which don’t involve asking rural Oregonians to pay for an agency that should rely on the general fund just like everyone else.

This is another example of what we can do when we all band together for a common cause. Defeating a very unfair new tax is just one example. There will be plenty more as we approach a new legislative session.

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