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Oregon corporate tax measure shot down

By ANDREW SELSKY
Of the Associated Press

SALEM — Oregonians on Tuesday shot down a state ballot measure that would have taxed companies’ sales of more than $25 million, with many voters worrying that it would hit their own wallets.

Ben Unger, a main backer of Measure 97, conceded defeat Tuesday evening in a message to the media and supporters, saying that “big, out-of-state corporations had to shatter campaign finance records to beat us.”

Tens of millions of dollars were thrown into the battle over Measure 97 by both sides, with the “no” campaign largely funded by mostly out-of-state corporations.

Measure 97 “fell of its own weight when people understood what it would do,” Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the campaign to defeat the tax, said, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Opponents and even the Legislative Revenue Office say every Oregonian would have been affected.

Oregon is one of only five states in America that doesn't have a sales tax. Opponents called Measure 97 a sales tax in disguise, saying companies that have to pay it will pass on the cost to their customers.

Allison Ellermeier said she had voted against Measure 97 after agonizing over it. The real estate agent voted with her 6-month-old son strapped to her chest and a friend's daughter in a stroller.

“I voted no, and that's a hard thing to say because I'm all for taxing all of us for schools and other social services,” she said.

Backers said the revenue from the tax would have gone to education, health and senior services, although it would have landed in the general fund, which the legislature can spend as it sees fit.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat who won her own race on Tuesday, said she supported the measure because the state budget is facing a $1.3 billion deficit, and the money is needed to help fund education, health care and senior services.

Republican challenger Bud Pierce said the measure would increase the cost of living for every Oregonian and that instead state government should learn to live within its means.

Consumers would not have been directly taxed by the measure, which was expected to increase state revenue by $3 billion per year. Many businesses that have narrow profit margins felt threatened because sales would have been taxed, not profits. The minimum tax for companies with more than $25 million in sales in Oregon would have been 2.5 percent of the excess over $25 million, plus $30,001.

Even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in on it, saying in a statement last week that “at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, it is time for large profitable corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes. That is why I am supporting Oregon 97.”

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AP reporter Gillian Flaccus in Portland contributed to this report

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