Editorial: Sales Tax: Vote No

The proposed sales tax is like the Rogue River. On the surface the Rogue River is beautiful to look at and float down on a raft. Yet beneath the surface the fast-moving currents are risky. Hidden boulders can seriously harm anyone who gets knocked out of a raft.

Likewise, the proposed sales tax appears simple. Just add 3 cents to every dollar you spend on most products and services you buy within Josephine County. What’s three pennies? Big-ticket items only get taxed on the first $2,000, so the tax is capped at $60 for more expensive items. We even get to tax visitors to our beautiful county by charging the tax during the April to October tourist season only. We get a generously funded Sheriff’s Office with more deputy patrols and a reduction of property taxes paid by those who own property in the City of Grants Pass.

Beneath the surface, the sales tax has many serious and risky defects. The total annual sales tax revenue of $18 million dollars is an estimate and could be lower if buyers avoid Josephine County or we go into a recession. Renters in Grants Pass would pay the sales tax but not receive a reduction in property tax because they don’t pay it. Big-box stores and fast-food franchises are set up to collect the sales tax. Churches, nonprofits and many small businesses are not. The ordinance authorizes the county to obtain state income tax returns to calculate the sales tax due. Yet no one files tax returns showing revenue collected from transactions under $2,000 during a specific six-month period each year. A separate sales tax return will need to be prepared so collected sales taxes can be paid by March 1. After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, some small businesses may not survive this further burden. Most tourists will pay little because the sales tax exempts fuel and lodging expenses. Yet Josephine County will soon be known as the county with a sales tax, causing travelers to travel a bit further down the road.

A “No” vote on the sales tax is not a vote against supporting the Sheriff’s Office. We can find a better way to fund the Sheriff’s Office than this risky, complicated and costly sales tax.

Vote “No” on Measure 17-122, the retail activity sales tax.

Richard Emmons