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Oregon Supreme Court upholds school art and music tax

[JURIST] The Oregon Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday upheld [opinion, PDF] the city's $35 annual tax [text] imposed on residents to fund art and music programs in public schools.

The tax was voted on and passed in 2013 "'to restore arts and music education' in public schools 'by providing stable, long-term funding for certified arts and music teachers.'" The $35 is owed once annually by all residents meeting certain age and income requirements.

George Wittemyer filed the lawsuit in 2013 against the city arguing the tax violated the Ninth Amendment of Oregon's constitution, which prohibits poll or head taxes. He asserts the tax does not take income into account because the tax is the same amount for all qualified individuals, and therefore it does not consider individual income.

The Oregon Supreme Court rejected his argument, stating:

A tax that takes into account the income, property, or other resources of taxpayers is not a "poll or head tax" within the meaning of Article IX, section 1a. In this case, the City of Portland arts tax exempts certain residents based on their income and household resources. Thus, the tax does take income into account and, as a result, does not amount to a "poll or head tax" within the meaning of the state constitution.
The court's dismissal means that qualified Portland residents will continue paying $35 each April to support public school art and music programs.

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