Yes on 97 campaign to push Legislature for higher taxes

Legislation would boost state revenue and increase corporate income transparency

Measure 97 buttons for the Yes on 97 event on Election Day 2016. (KOIN)
Measure 97 buttons for the Yes on 97 event on Election Day 2016. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — In the wake of its defeat in passing a $3 billion corporate sales tax measure, A Better Oregon announced Thursday it plans to push for legislation next year to boost state revenue and increase corporate income transparency.

During a press conference Thursday at a Planned Parenthood in Northeast Portland, the union-backed coalition, which sponsored Measure 97, released no details about possible proposals.

Coalition leaders said the 10-to-15-percent cuts to state services that Gov. Kate Brown has said will be needed to balance the 2017-18 budget are unacceptable.

“The issue is our largest corporations are not paying their fair share,” said coalition leader Linda Roman, director of health policy and government relations for the Latino Health Coalition. “We cannot continue to tax working families and small businesses. That is just too large of a burden for Oregonians.”

Coalition leaders’ messages Thursday seemed to echo many of its campaign slogans. But coalition leader Andrea Paluso, executive director of Family Forward Oregon, said A Better Oregon is willing to negotiate with businesses and corporations that opposed the ballot measure on a potential revenue package.

Lawmakers have said they plan to consider a revenue package next year to help fill a nearly $1.4 billion revenue shortfall on maintaining existing services.

Coalition leaders said they plan to unveil A Better Oregon budget in coming weeks, revenue package proposals and legislation to disclose what corporations pay in taxes to the state. Some of the revenue proposals already exist, but A Better Oregon has not yet released them, Roman said. The coalition hopes to work with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the legislation but was not prepared Thursday to name any sponsors.

The coalition has no existing plans to propose another ballot measure to raise revenue. Leaders are waiting to see what the Legislature will come up with next year.

Coalition leaders will be looking for “real attempts at and success in raising revenue that closes some of our budget shortfalls but also looks to the future,” Paluso said.

“It’s not enough anymore to just stop cutting,” she said. “We actually need to invest in the future.”

One of A Better Oregon’s proposals will aim at making public the amount of taxes corporations pay the state, Roman said.

“Time and time again in this debate as we were really asking corporations to pay their fair share for the common good, as they should, we came up against the fact that there really was a dearth of information about what they actually pay,” said coalition leader Brian Rudiger, deputy executive director for SEIU Local 503, “and we think as we move forward into this 2017 legislative cycle and beyond, that it is going to be critical for legislators and the general public to have more information.”

The coalition is working with lawyers to explore legal options for greater transparency, Paluso said.

“We feel confident there are ways we can require corporations to disclose more about their profits and tax rates,” she said.

Valerie Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the Portland Business Alliance, declined the comment on the proposal at this time.

Ryan Deckert, president of the Oregon Business Association, said his association is willing to sit down with lawmakers and A Better Oregon to discuss potential revenue packages. However, he said the proposal to make public what corporations pay in taxes would put Oregon companies at an unfair advantage. Voters made it clear they don’t have the “appetite for hurting the economy and hurting working families,” Deckert said.

Voters soundly rejected Measure 97 by a 19-point margin. The measure would have levied a 2.5 percent tax on certain corporations’ Oregon sales exceeding $25 million.

The campaign against the measure emphasized that the tax applied only to one type of corporation, leaving out others with equal sales. The “No on Measure 97” campaign also drove home that lawmakers could spend the revenue in any way they chose, and that the tax could cost consumers hundreds of dollars more per year in the form of higher prices and slowed job growth.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.