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Special Session starts amid controversy

Anti-Nike protest scheduled at State Capitol


An attempt to prevent Nike from cashing in on a popular Washington County tax break created controversy over Friday's special session of the Oregon before it even began.

Nike is seeking guarantees that its state tax load will not change before investing at least $150 million to create 500 or more new jobs in Oregon. But the first draft of the bill considered by the Joint Economic Development Committee on Thursday said the guarantee would not apply to any company that received property tax breaks valued at $5 million of more under the state's Strategic Investment Program, which has been used in Washington County to encourage Intel and other companies to expand.

The restriction could potentially hinder Washington County's efforts to recruit the new jobs and favor Portland, which has a wider range of economic development tools.

At the pre-session hearing, state Sen. Ginny Burdick, the committee co-chair, explained the restriction was intended to prevent companies from taking advantage of multiple tax breaks. But Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and other committee members said it was wrong to single out a single financial incentive for exclusion. State Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) said the language would be removed from the bill in committee before it is sent to the full Legislature on Friday.

Opponents to the bill have scheduled a protest at the State Capitol at the beginning of the session. The Emergency Coalition Against Austerity decries giving Nike special treatment.