In previous years, state Rep. Knute Buehler's position on Oregon's personal income tax kicker was clear: The state should keep its paws off the money and return it to taxpayers.
In 2015, when the state announced a $349 million personal kicker, for instance, Buehler issued a statement.
"These tax refunds are the people's money not the politicians'," Buehler said then. "Every dime should be returned for Oregonians to save, invest or spend. This money belongs to the hard working Oregonians who are driving our economic growth."
He issued a similar statement in 2017, according to KTVZ. "Record tax revenue has been generated by the hard working people of Oregon. The kicker dollars are the people's money, not the Salem politicians'. Every dime should be refunded to Oregon taxpayers in accordance with state law."
But in an interview today with KGW at Beaverton High School, Buehler changed his tune, saying that when personal income tax revenues exceed the state forecasts by more than two percent, triggering the personal kicker, the state should hold onto the money until savings hit a certain threshhold.
"A great way to fill the rainy day fund is to deviate the kicker until we get an adequate rainy day fund," Buehler told KGW.
He added that a reasonable number would be 20 percent of the general fund budget or $8 billion. KGW's Laural Porter expressed surprise at Beuhler's answer, noting the personal kicker has seemed "sacrosanct."
"Is that something you really think voters or the Legislature would approved?" Porter asked Buehler.
"Absolutely," he replied.
Buehler's campaign spokeswoman Monica Wrobelewski says the candidate's position on the kicker consistent with his previous thinking.
"Knute's position has not shifted," Wroblewski says. "His position has been 1) we need to keep growing the economy, 2) we need to get our costs under control and 3) then we can talk about revenue reform, starting with smoothing out our revenue spikes through designating the kicker to the Rainy Day fund until it is adequately funded. In the past, he has opposed diverting the kicker from taxpayers toward unchecked spending and special projects for Salem politicians. In the interview, he is reaffirming his support for making a thoughtful change to the kicker that dedicates the amount specifically to the Rainy Day fund until it is adequately funded to prevent catastrophic cuts in the case of a recession. Once we have adequate reserves, the kicker goes back to the taxpayer."