September 24th, 2012 10:40 am | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: PDX Votes, Politics, Business, Legislature

Anti-Real Estate Tax Campaign Is Making Stuff Up


Proponents of Measure 79, which would amend the Oregon constitution to ban real estate transfer taxes, already bear the burden of trying to convince voters to solve a problem that does not exist. But in doing so they're making statements that at best are misleading, and, at worst, are flat-out lies.

As WW reported earlier, Measure 79 is a solution in search of a problem: State law already prohibits the imposition of a tax on real estate transfers, and it has done so since 1989.

What's more, the only Oregon locality with a real estate transfer tax—Washington County, which charges a tenth of a percent on each property sale—is perhaps the most economically vibrant section of the state, so proponents gloom and doom scenarios don't wash.

That hasn't stopped the National Association of Realtors from dumping $2 million on the measure and the Oregon Association of Realtors another $1.4 million. Those middlemen wants to tie the hands of Oregon cities and counties, including those which have been devastated by the loss of federal timber money. A 2009 governor's tax force found that one of the few options open to places such as Curry County is a real estate transfer tax.

And judging by the advertising they are ginning up, the Realtors will do anything to win.

Here's what they are saying on a website urging voters to use the constitution to protect Realtors pocketbooks:

"A new tax on real estate will make it more difficult and expensive to buy or sell a home. This is the last thing we need. Join us and STOP real estate transfer taxes in Oregon."
That could lead voters looking for information think a new tax is imminent or already on the books. That is not the case. The website also includes calculator loaded up and ready to go with what Jon Coney, a spokesman for Measure 79, says is the average of real estate transfer taxes in other states—just under two percent.

But Coney acknowledges that the "new tax on real estate" his campaign's website does not actually exist and that the calculator does not equate to anything anyone is currently proposing in Oregon. He says there is always a possibility lawmakers could allow a new tax.

"What I would say is that things change," Coney says.

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