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Proposed initiative would ban food taxes

I understand there is a measure that will be on the ballot in November to tax groceries. That seems crazy; that’s the one thing that’s most likely not to be taxed in most places. Who put that measure up and what’s its status?

— Robert, Medford

Robert, we can find no measure that proposes to tax groceries, but we did find a proposed measure filed by people who apparently agree with your point of view.

Initiative Petition 37, which has been filed but is not yet approved for the November ballot, would prohibit food taxes by state or local governments. It would exempt existing taxes, such as the meals tax in place in Ashland.

Here’s the ballot summary of the proposed measure:

“Currently, state/local governments may enact/amend taxes/fees on grocery sales, including state corporate minimum tax, local taxes. Measure prohibits state/local governments from adopting, approving or enacting, on or after October 1, 2017, any “tax, fee, or other assessment” on sale/distribution/purchase/receipt of, or for privilege of selling/distributing, “groceries,” by individuals/entities regulated by designated food safety agencies, including restaurants, or operating as farm stand/farmers market/food bank. Measure prohibits “sales tax, gross receipts tax, commercial activity tax, value-added tax, excise tax, privilege tax, and any other similar tax on sale of groceries.” “Groceries” defined as “any raw or processed food or beverage intended for human consumption.” Alcoholic beverages, marijuana products, tobacco products exempted.”

According to an interview with XRay.fm in Portland, the petitioners, Ron Brake and Syd Hannigan, both have connections to the grocery industry. Hannigan previously worked in the Safeway corporate office and now serves on the board of directors at the Oregon Food Bank. Brake owns two Food 4 Less grocery stores and is the owner of Marketing Concepts, an agency which has represented Kroger Companies, Fred Meyer, Costco Wholesale, Amazon, Safeway Stores, Bi-Mart and other northwest retailers.

The petitioners must collect 117,578 valid signatures to get their initiative on the ballot. The signatures for initiatives must be submitted four months prior to the Nov. 6 election.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.