By editorial board • 

Legislature must pick up the pieces of Measure 97’s failure

Oregon voters sent a message when they kicked Measure 97 to the curb: You can and must do better by us.

The Legislature’s Democratic leadership was yearning for a voter bailout. Instead, it now has to seek accommodation with Republican moderates it just made every effort to oust in a savage campaign.

The defeat of the corporate sales tax reminds us of the fate Measure 80 in 2012. Oregonians were ready to legalize marijuana that year, and are probably ready to embrace corporate tax reform this year, but not through half-baked schemes threatening a nasty tangle of unintended consequences. 

“Make them pay their fare share” is an idea that resonates. But Measure 97 promised to saddle Oregon with the worst corporate tax climate in the nation and leave taxpayers holding the bag. It soon became clear this was no solution.

Denied a quick fix, the Legislature and Gov. Kate Brown now have a budget mountain to scale completely on their own.

The revenue forecast released Wednesday shows them facing a shortfall approaching $1.8 billion for the 2017-19 biennium. And it warned, “Going forward, slower, more sustainable growth rates are expected to be the norm.”

On top of that, the Legislature is still facing a massive unfunded liability in its Public Employee Retirement System. And the Democratic Party’s reliance on union money and manpower make PERS reform particularly dicey, as do a series of adverse court rulings.

Cuts alone won’t be enough. The Legislature must explore new revenue streams.

One promising place to start is the lighter and fairer corporate gross receipts tax proposed last year by Sen. Mark Hass, a Democrat from Beaverton. His party colleagues dismissed it out of hand at the time, their sights fixed on bigger things.

They did us a disservice. It’s time for them to reconsider.

As the forecast states, there is some predictability in the path ahead opening the door to tax code adjustments compatible with a sustainable future. 

On Wednesday, Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Association voted to merge to give the business community a unified voice in Salem.

It’s not only about what is good for business, but, ultimately, what’s good for Oregon,” said AOI Chairman Pat Reiten. 

The sense of mutual responsibility expressed on the lobbyist side deserves embrace on the legislator side as well.

Comments

Don Dix

The state has spent millions foolishly -- and the money collected from M97 was to go into the general fund, with no designation or requirements. The only guarantee was what it 'might be spent on' (ed., health care, and senior services).

M97 should be a message to the legislative Ds and Gov. Kate -- Oregon has had enough of the lies and deceit and don't trust the government as it is to keep the promises made. But the arrogant and ignorant attitude to protect all things union (the unions wrote the measure) stands solidly in the way.

It would be entertaining to see a M97 'groin-kick' (maybe two) on all future union sponsored/supported measures. At some point, maybe those complicit in allowing the unions to dictate policy will not physically be able to slither back into the building!

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