Brown calls endorsing Measure 97 a “difficult decision”

She said it “truly was the most difficult decision I have ever made during my time in office"

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks during her State of the State address in Portland, Ore., Friday, April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks during her State of the State address in Portland, Ore., Friday, April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Gov. Kate Brown defended her decision to support a corporate sales tax measure Wednesday as the only viable alternative to deep cuts at state agencies and rollbacks to recent education and health care investments.

Deciding to endorse Measure 97 “truly was the most difficult decision I have ever made during my time in office,” Brown said.

The measure would levy a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax on certain corporations’ Oregon sales exceeding $25 million and would represent the largest tax increase in the state’s history.

Brown made the comments during a full-house meeting of the Portland Business Alliance, in an appearance that one businessman described as walking into a “lion’s den.”

The alliance of nearly 1,900 businesses — similar to a chamber of commerce — has come out against the corporate sales tax measure and has dedicated much of its homepage to campaigning against the tax measure.

Brown said Oregonians have for too long been paying more than their fair share for the cost of state services, and it’s time to increase corporations’ contribution.

Opponents have focused on studies that show consumers would pay for much of the cost of the tax. The typical Oregon family would see their costs climb by about $600 in the form of higher prices and job opportunities, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office.

Economists disagree on the exact impact the tax will have on consumers, Brown noted. However, the alliance’s vehement resistance to the tax proves that corporations won’t be passing all of the cost onto consumers, she argued.

Brown claimed Measure 97 is the only viable alternative to keep the state’s existing investments in early child education, full-day kindergarten, college and university tuition grants and expansions in health care coverage.

Yet the governor took no action during the February legislative session when state lawmakers proposed more moderate alternatives to the tax.

Without the tax, an estimated $1.35 billion shortfall in 2017-19 would force state agencies to trim their budgets by 10 percent, Brown said.

“That is just untenable for me,” she said.

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