The state's largest teachers' union collects 1,000 signatures for two tax reform measures aimed at funding education.

FILE PHOTO - Petitioners for Initiative Petition 28, Measure 97, bring signatures to the Secretary of State's Office in Salem last year.SALEM – The state's largest teachers' union has reached the first milestone to land two tax reform proposals on the November 2018 ballot.

One proposal, Initiative Petition 27, would levy a 0.95 percent gross receipts tax on corporations with annual sales greater than $5 million. Petitioners want all of the revenue to go toward K-12 and higher education.

"We are taking every step we can to ensure our students have the schools they deserve," said Hanna Vaandering, president of the Oregon Education Association, in a statement. "Oregonians are tired of shortchanging our students in order to protect low corporate taxes. They want a more equitable system where every student gets the individual attention they need to succeed."

The other, Initiative Petition 26, would eliminate the constitutional requirement to garner a three-fifths majority vote in both chambers of the Legislature to pass new taxes, when educational funding dips under than a certain threshold. The threshold is "a sum of money sufficient to ensure the state system of public education meets quality goals established by law."

The Oregon Education Association announced Tuesday, June 20, that petitioners have collected the 1,000 signatures needed to receive a ballot title.

The proposals are gaining momentum just as the Democratic majority in the Legislature is scrambling to negotiate corporate tax reform and spending reductions with Republicans and the business community.

A Brighter Oregon, a coalition of businesses that united to defeated another union-backed corporate sales tax measure last November, issued a statement Tuesday in response to the initiative petitions' milestone.

"It's disappointing that government employee unions continue to push for ballot measure battles rather than working collaboratively with legislators to put the state on a sound fiscal path into the future," said Pat McCormick, a spokesman for Brighter Oregon. "Instead of polarizing Oregonians with divisive ballot measures, we urge them to join us and others advocating for a legislative plan that includes both cost control and new revenues to pay for outcomes Oregonians want, including better high school graduation rates and affordable access to college."

Vaandering said the association would not wait to take action to address Oregon's education funding woes.

"We refuse to sit idly by and allow the crisis in Oregon's schools worsen while corporations obstruct all efforts to pay a penny more in taxes," Vaandering said. "Our classrooms are already far too crowded, our school years are too short, and our college tuition is much too high to do nothing."

The House of Representatives voted 35-to-24 Tuesday, June 20, to postpone a vote on a two-year K-12 budget of $8.2 billion, to give lawmakers another week to reach a deal to raise more revenue for education. The Senate approved the budget earlier this month.

Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
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