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Suspect Packages

Smells arise from two places

Two suspicious packages: a parcel laden with foul fish odor and a looming set of tax measures out of Salem.

Strange how two disparate news items can bear the same odorous stamp.

As described on page A1 in this issue, Hood River Post Office was shut down for several hours Friday while authorities checked, and cleaned up, a stenching parcel that oozed what turned out to be fish viscera.

It is tempting to make light of the situation — but this fish taint t’aint funny.

Less than a week after Sept. 11, one has to respect the fears of postal and law enforcement officials when it comes to a bad-smelling piece of mail.

The scent of things from Salem is that of a tax increase bill that could be sent to voters later this year. At press time, the Legislature was mired — still — in disagreement over a proposal to ask voters to bump up the top personal income tax rate from 9 to 9.65 percent and corporate taxes from 6.6 percent to 6.9 percent over a three-year period, as a way to reap about $315 million this budget period.

Such a request would come at a time when school officials statewide are banking on passage of Measure 19 on the mail-in ballot Tuesday, to defray looming education cuts by $150 million; supporters fear that Measure 19 and Measure 20 (the cigarette tax increase request) will fail because statewide voter turnout is expected to be less than 40 percent.

Given the sparse turnout, it is evident voters are already reticent about having to make decisions they feel the Legislature should have the backbone to accomplish — yet another tax election could be coming.

Which means that, while many Oregon voters oppose a tax increase and others favor one as a budget fix, it is not the proposal itself that smells suspect, but the way it came about:

After months of wrangling with the steer, the cowboys sent it back to the cookhouse for branding. And that’s no way to run a round-up.

The fitting response for many voters will be vote the dudes off the ranch; ironically, the fear of voter fallout from raising taxes that apparently drove so many legislators might pale compared to voter wrath over 2002’s unprecedented, five-session stampede of indecision.

Meanwhile, let’s hope the authorities catch whoever sent the smelly fish package; this person’s fitting punishment should be to help county election workers tote all those ballots from post office to courthouse, when a tax increase election day comes.

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