Vote “Yes on Measure 97” to Support Oregon Schools
by Nana Nash, AFSCME Local 328 Member
REQUIRE BIG CORPORATIONS PAY NOW OR OREGONIANS WILL SURELY PAY LATER
Measure 97 is a ballot measure that would raise the minimum corporate tax a corporation pays when it makes more than $25 million in Oregon sales. It will not affect regular citizens — it only taxes big business.
Stop Corporate Welfare This should be our slogan in Oregon. Oregon is 50th in the nation for corporate taxes on companies that gross more than $25 million annually — in Oregon, these businesses pay lower taxes than anywhere else in the country. These corporations should be held to a higher standard and pay their fair share.
Oregon now has a boom-and-bust tax system that relies most heavily on income taxes to fund state services — this means that one main source of tax dollars funds a wide array of necessary services and programs. Oregon currently has the fourth worst high-school graduation rate in the country, barely improved over recent years. The state faces a roughly $2 billion funding gap for education alone. Oregonians should care because we’ve been paying some of the highest income taxes in the country while the largest corporations have paid very little in corporate taxes.
If Measure 97, passes it will not cost you money — it will not cost Oregonians $600 each, as the attack ads claim. This measure will not cost anything extra out of pocket to 99.9% of Oregon residents. According to the Anderson Economic Group, Oregon is last in corporate taxes . With the passage of Measure 97, Oregon would still have some of the lowest corporate taxes on the west coast (including Idaho).
Why Do Corporations Care? The short answer is: they don’t. Why are large corporations like Comcast, Wells Fargo and Chevron investing millions of dollars in advertising to fight the passage of Measure 97?
For many years, these large companies have not paid proportionally to what local mom-and-pop businesses pay to do business here in Oregon. Small businesses in Oregon support Measure 97 because they currently pay a higher percentage of tax than the large corporations. Corporations with gross sales in Oregon of more than $25 million know they would be less competitive if they raised their prices after Measure 97 passed. The “invisible hand” of the market would not allow them to pass on the cost of paying these taxes to the consumer. Prices are driven by market and competition more than by a one-to-one relationship with costs.
If these companies could just pass these costs onto Oregon consumers, why would they care whether Measure 97 passes or not? They certainly aren’t looking out for us. They’re looking out for themselves — that’s why they’re spending $20 million to fight the measure. If corporations could just charge us more, they’d already be charging more.
No, Measure 97 Will Not Increase Taxes for Mom-and-Pop Businesses Less than 1% of businesses in Oregon will see their corporate taxes go up. That’s because the only part of Oregon’s tax structure that is changing is the part that applies to corporations making more than $25 million in Oregon sales. Similarly, only publicly traded C-corporations are subject to the change. Measure 97 excludes the majority of mom-and-pop businesses — In fact, it evens the playing field for businesses struggling to compete with large, out-of-state corporations.
What About the Claims That Measure 97 Is a Backdoor Sales Tax for Consumers? With Measure 97 resulting in such a narrowly targeted minimum increase, the affected corporations will still need to stay competitive with the smaller businesses that are already paying their fair share in corporate taxes. Also, studies have shown that corporate taxes don’t directly drive consumer prices as much as other market factors do. Many of the corporations that would be affected by Measure 97 do business up and down the west coast and across the country and set their prices at regional market rates. Prices in Washington, where corporations already pay much more in state and local taxes than they do in Oregon, aren’t really any higher than prices in Oregon.
The Oregon Consumer League did a shopping-cart study, researching the cost of goods in states with higher corporate taxes than Oregon:
“The cost of staples that people buy every day like cereal, diapers, duct tape and Legos is remarkably consistent across the country. Whether you live in Florida, Maine, Texas, North Dakota, California, or Oregon — pretty much anywhere in the continental United States — a trip to the store for the basics is going to cost about the same. Chicken at Fred Meyer, for example, is $3.99 per pound in Vancouver, WA, $3.99 per pound in Portland, OR and $3.99 per pound in Boise, ID even though corporate taxes are very different in each state.”
What About Health Care? Opponents of Measure 97 hope to frighten voters in order to avoid being taxed on the high profits being earned in the for-profit health-care sector. Lots of health-care providers and insurers in Oregon — including Kaiser, Providence and Adventist—are nonprofits, and their taxes won’t be affected by Measure 97. These companies will be happy that the state can insure more people through the Oregon Health Plan and invest in public-health measures.
As for prescriptions, pharmaceutical companies that would be affected by Measure 97 make only one-fifth of 1% of their total annual sales in Oregon. A corporate-tax increase here would just slightly reduce their global profits. High-earning corporations in every industry should be contributing their fair share to Oregon’s public programs that provide in-home care to seniors and people living with disabilities.
What About Schools and Other Services? As a direct result of funding cuts due to plummeting corporate tax revenues, Oregon schools now have the third largest class sizes in the country and the fourth worst graduation rate, with a school year two weeks shorter than the minimum in many other states. If Measure 97 passes, we’ll be able to restore per-pupil spending to the level of the late 1980s (adjusted for inflation), and get back into the mainstream. We’ll be able to provide a much-needed expansion to state programs for in-home senior care, allowing seniors to remain in their own homes. We’ll be able to replace federal Medicaid dollars that were only available to kick-start our health programs in Oregon.
What Will Happen If Measure 97 Fails? Oregon faces a huge budget shortfall of about $1.35 billion. If Measure 97 fails, essential services will be strapped and cuts will be necessary. Oregon public schools, Medicaid and programs for seniors will be negatively affected. If Oregonians don’t pass Measure 97 to make corporations pay their fair share now, we will all pay later.
What Groups and Organizations Are Supporting Measure 97? Measure 97 is supported by AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Oregon Education Association, Oregon Nurses Association, SEIU, Governor Kate Brown, League of Women Voters, Citizens Initiative Review Commission and many others. These are progressive organizations that spend the most direct time working with the people and communities who need this measure the most. This coalition of supporters sees the need for large corporations to take a role in building a better Oregon.
If Measure 97 passes, it will be because AFSCME members and folks in the community got involved. The big corporations that are against this measure are using fear tactics to keep Oregonians from taking care of the people in our communities that need us the most. Our education system and our seniors need us, and we need the businesses that profit from us to help build a better Oregon.
What Can I Do to Help Get Measure 97 Passed? AFSCME is conducting a get-out-the-vote effort to support Measure 97 with door knocking and phone banking to make sure our members have gotten their ballots in the mail or have a plan to turn them in. Door- knocking events will only involve talking to supporters of the measure to remind them to vote. Ballots have already been mailed to voters and we need volunteers now. For information on dates and times, call (503) 239-9858 ext. 4147, visit Oregon AFSCME on Facebook or check out the Oregon AFSCME online events calendar.
CLICK THE LINKS IN THIS ARTICLE FOR SOURCES AND OTHER INFORMATION ABOUT MEASURE