Last-minute session is intended to ensure that Nike keeps future expansions in Oregon
Governor John Kitzhaber called a single-day special legislative session today to pass a new bill primarily aimed at securing the current tax code for Nike.
Kitzhaber convened the Dec. 14 session under his authority pursuant to Section 12, Article V of the Oregon Constitution. During the session, lawmakers considered the Economic Impact Investment Act, which would allow the governor to enter into qualifying investment contracts with any company committing to a minimum of 500 living wage jobs and $150 million in capital investments during a five year period.
“With the legislative action this week, Oregon can secure high wage jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of new private investment in the next five years,” Kitzhaber said.
Information provided by Nike, whose world headquarters is located in Washington County, said that their employment in Oregon has grown by nearly 60 percent since 2007, and their average compensation for an employee exceeds $100,000.
Their anticipated future growth will require them to expand their facilities, and Kitzhaber hopes the new law will keep that expansion in-state by providing certainty that the State of Oregon won’t change Nike’s tax rules after they make a new investment.
“It’s an easy call and a perfect fit with our strategy to attract and retain companies that create jobs and boost per-capita income,” he said.
Oregon Representative Mike McLane (R-Dist. 55) believes the effort to hastily pass the Economic Impact Investment Act stems from the outcome of the November election.
“What is going on, in my opinion, is that Nike saw the results of the election and realized that tax incentives will likely be on the table to cut by a Democratic-led legislature, and Nike wants to cut their deal before the new legislature is sworn in,” he said.
McLane finds it unfortunate that tax incentives and credits factor into manipulating private sector decisions, but since government uses such methods, he supports the Economic Investment Act.
“I want Oregon to remain competitive in attracting a retaining private sector industry,” McLane said.
Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett (R-Dist. 28) said he supports the intent of the bill, but believes it should broaden its scope to include smaller companies, and hopes the legislature can alter it.
“If it is good for Nike and it is good for Washington County, where Nike is located, then it would be good for Prineville and Les Schwab or a new company,” he said. “We’ll see what we can do to alter the bill.”
Whitsett also expressed concerns that the bill will still give the governor and the Oregon Department of Revenue the final say in who keeps their current tax rules, regardless of whether they meet the investment and employment standards or not.
“I have never believed that it is government’s place to pick winner or losers,” he said.
The Oregon Business Association (OBA), a group comprised of business leaders committed to continued economic competitiveness in Oregon, spoke out in favor the proposed legislation as well.
“Private sector job growth is driving Oregon’s economic recovery, but state government has an important role to play in helping create a business climate to accelerate that growth,” said OBA President Ryan Deckert. “We’ve been focusing on finding ways to boost wages, and the Economic Impact Investment Act will be a powerful tool to drive per-capita income up in Oregon.”
As of press deadline no vote had been cast.