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Opponents raise $5.2 million to fight corporate tax plan

TRIBUNE ILLUSTRATIONSALEM — Defeat The Tax On Oregon Sales, a coalition of business interests, has raised more than $5.2 million to defeat a ballot measure to levy a hefty state corporate sales tax, according to its first campaign finance disclosures.

That compares to about $450,000 raised by proponents, A Better Oregon, which has yet to file paperwork establishing its political action committee.

“Our coalition already includes more than 3,000 individuals, organizations and businesses from across the state that share deep concerns about this costly and damaging $6 billion tax on Oregon sales,” Rebecca Tweed, campaign coordinator for Defeat The Tax On Oregon Sales, said in a statement. “We’ve put a solid foundation in place to clearly communicate with Oregon voters that they will be the ones paying most of this regressive tax through higher prices for nearly everything they buy — groceries, gasoline, insurance, medicines, electricity, phones, medical care — costing the average Oregon household over $600 more per year.”

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP/EO MEDIA GROUPThe Defeat the Tax on Oregon Sales Political Action Committee reported more than 500 contributions through July 11. Out of the $5.2 million, nearly $2.1 million came from out-of-state businesses, such as Walmart, Comcast and Phillips 66.

A Better Oregon plans to launch its political action committee after ballot measures are certified in August, said Katherine Driessen, a spokeswoman for the union-backed campaign.

Total expenditures by the Defeat The Tax On Oregon Sales PAC were $1.8 million, leaving the coalition with $3.4 million of cash on hand.

Proponents have spent $41,762.62.

"Oregon ranks dead last in corporate taxes, so it's no surprise that the world's largest corporations such as Comcast, Walmart, and Wells Fargo plan to spend millions of dollars to continue avoiding paying their fair share in Oregon," Driessen said in a prepared statement. "With Measure 97, Oregonians will finally have an opportunity to hold these large and out-of-state corporations accountable so we can have the schools and critical services Oregon deserves. We fully expected the world's largest corporations like Comcast to spend more money than any other campaign in Oregon history, and we're ready."

Proponents have been referring to the initiative as Measure 97, but ballot measure numbers won't officially be assigned until Aug. 5, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Political action committees are required to report their contributions and expenditures within 30 days of filing. That report must include transactions by the opposition group from before the formation of the PAC.

The ballot measure, Initiative Petition 28, would impose a 2.5 percent tax on the Oregon sales of "C" corporations exceeding $25 million. It would represent the largest tax increase in state history.

The so-called gross receipts tax would raise about $3 billion a year in new state revenue and bolster public sector jobs, while slowing growth in private sector jobs, according to the Legislative Revenue Office.

It also found that the tax would act as a consumption tax, spiking prices for consumers by about $613 per year for a household with median income of $51,075.

Critics of the tax say the measure takes no account of a corporation's profits, taxing instead its gross receipts. High volume, low-margin businesses, such as Powell's Books, might owe taxes exceeding their actual profits.

Supporters of the measure, backed by public employee unions, say the tax will primarily hit out-of-state corporations that they say don't pay their fair share. Proponents say the tax will help support education, health care and senior services. However, nothing in the measure restricts the use of the revenue to those purposes, and lawmakers have wide latitude to alter the tax.

Critics of the tax say the measure takes no account of a corporation's profits, taxing instead its gross receipts. High volume, low-margin businesses, such as Powell's Books, might owe taxes exceeding their actual profits.

Supporters of the measure, backed by public employee unions, say the tax will primarily hit out-of-state corporations that they say don't pay their fair share. The revenue, they say, will help support education, health care and senior services.

However, nothing in the measure restricts the use of the revenue to those purposes, and lawmakers have wide latitude to alter the tax.


By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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