By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Sales tax on move; carbon cap next up

Battle lines are drawn in Salem, but legislative Republicans still are brandishing knives in a gunfight.

Democrats number 38 of 60 representatives and 18 of 30 senators. Both totals meet the 60 percent threshold needed to raise taxes; thus a business sales tax running $1 billion a year, approved Wednesday in the House, is now moving toward Senate approval faster than a puck on ice.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Money draws headlines, but ideology fuels the war.

Democrats have named their tax increase measure the “Oregon Student Success Act.” Said House Speaker Tina Kotek, “This is a historic investment in our children’s education after nearly 30 years of underfunding our schools.”

According to the office of the House Democratic Caucus, “House Bill 3427 seeks to build a model public education system in Oregon through a dedicated, sustainable investment that will improve student outcomes, require ongoing accountability and close opportunity gaps for historically underserved students.”

House Republicans merely see more money thrown into the state budget with no cost controls. They were strident in their opposition.

“This sales tax is the result of Democrats colluding with corporations behind closed doors to bail out PERS on the backs of working Oregonians,” their caucus said. “What transpired yesterday had nothing to with funding education ... The fact is, they decided to stand with corporations and big business against Oregonians.”

Oregon’s largest business association — Oregon Business & Industry — drew fire from conservatives after signing off on the deal. But it may be that OBI simply negotiated what leaders considered the best deal available from super-majority Democrats — a 0.57 percent tax on business sales in excess of $1 million, with an exemption for 35 percent of either labor or cost of goods sold, whichever is higher.

All agree that business will pass along the new taxes by raising prices. Legislators threw a bone that direction with a 0.25 percent reduction in state income tax rates, which won’t come close to reimbursing consumers for multi-level price hikes.

Sen. Brian Boquist, a Dallas Republican known for blunt talk, said, “This is exactly how fascist socialism works.”

Boquist thinks the “trade bait” negotiated by OBI will disappear, and he wants details on dozens of corporate exemptions sneaked into the sales tax bill during back-room meetings. He cites the governor’s proposed raid on reserves of the SAIF workers’ compensation fund, and predicts phony reforms of the public pension program.

His strongest warning, however, focuses on carbon emission cap-and-trade legislation, which he believes will devastate parts of rural Oregon. After Democrats finalize finances for the Student Success Act, expect cap-and-trade to become a financial issue that dwarfs the business sales tax skirmish.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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