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Group unveils new corporate tax plan after Measure 97 loss

PORTLAND — Oregon public employees unions and advocacy groups unveiled a tax proposal this week that's similar to one rejected by voters this fall.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the plan would generate $5 billion over two years, with most of the new money coming from a 2 percent tax on all corporations' gross annual sales in Oregon above $100 million.

Voters in November shot down Measure 97, which would have required corporations with at least $25 million in Oregon sales to pay more in tax to help fund education and other services.

The additional revenue is sought because Oregon faces a projected $1.7 billion shortfall in the next budget. It's largely due to the rising bill for the state's Medicaid expansion and higher personnel costs, including from public employee pensions.

Katherine Driessen, a spokeswoman for the union-backed group Our Oregon that campaigned for Measure 97, said many state lawmakers are working on the new tax proposal. She declined to name them.

House Republican spokesman Preston Mann sharply criticized the proposal: "Even in the face of an overwhelming defeat, they still have the audacity to stand before Oregonians and demand massive new tax increases with only vague details about how the money will be spent."

Supporters of the proposal said it accounts for criticisms of Measure 97, including concern that it would have applied to utilities. The latest gross receipts tax proposal would exempt utilities, but would still apply to grocery stores.

Andrea Paluso, executive director of Family Forward Oregon, said the proposal is just a starting point, but any tax increase must be "game-changing and significant."

She rejected the idea that lawmakers should consider cost-saving changes to the state's public pension system as part of a deal to boost tax revenue.

"The state has entered into a contract with public employees that they need to uphold," she said. "And we shouldn't be balancing the budget on the backs of those folks while we continue to allow corporations to not pay their fair share."