Kitzhaber jobs bill needs small business incentive, local leaders say

Gov. John Kitzhaber's jobs bill could have a far bigger impact on Southern Oregon with just some minor tinkering, a local economic development official said.

"It's a good idea, but it should have a regional threshold," said Ron Fox, executive director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc.

Kitzhaber has called lawmakers to a special session on Friday to create legislation that will give him authority to ensure tax rules won't change in exchange for an investment by a corporation of a minimum of 500 new jobs and a $150 million investment.

Athletic footwear and apparel giant Nike has been courted by other states, and the legislation helps ensure the company remains a major corporate player in Oregon.

Nike wants an agreement that its state income tax will continue to be based solely on the company's Oregon sales, regardless of any future changes in the tax code. Before 2005, Oregon also included a company's in-state payroll and property in the corporate tax formula.

Fox said the legislation is important in helping keep Nike in the state. It also could help other large companies in the major metropolitan areas of Oregon.

But if the bill were changed to a minimum of 250 new jobs and $75 million investment, it could encourage more corporate expansion in areas such as Southern Oregon, Fox said.

As it stands, the bill could potentially help local companies such as Boise Cascade or Harry and David.

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said the bill is almost entirely focused on Nike, providing enough incentives for the corporation to invest in Oregon.

"We'd rather keep them in Oregon," he said.

Buckley said the legislation wouldn't deprive the state of revenues and would actually bring in more income tax revenues.

Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, said he would be open to discussing expanding the legislation to include smaller investments from companies other than Nike.

However, as it stands, the legislation on the table is extremely important, Esquivel said.

"Nike wants to expand," he said. "They want to be assured that we're not going to be changing the tax rules. We could really use 12,000 jobs."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.