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We All Scream for Ice Cream!

Taking a look at Measure 97

As you know, dear readers, the Hot Air Society is not only a social drinking club; we are also a 527 Super-PAC. We secretly authorized the distribution of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones to the Donald Trump, Bud Pierce, Art Robinson and Dennis Richardson campaigns. The incendiary phone has been blamed for one house fire, a burning Jeep and several alarming moments on airplanes. We felt it was the least we could do for them.

 Since you know how we feel about the aforementioned clown college candidates, let’s visit Measure 97, the most critical issue on the ballot.

 Measure 97 is complex. For 10 years in the Legislature, I advocated for a similar gross receipts tax. Democrats were not in control back then, but the arguments for and against the tax were identical. 

Here’s what current House Revenue Committee Chair Phil Barnhart had to say in a recent email exchange with our mutual friend, L.S., a local journalist. L.S. assumed I was supporting Measure 97 and said she had some misgivings about the measure after reading an anti-97 pitch in the R-G by the heirs to Umpqua Dairy. She asked why the measure’s authors chose to tax sales rather than profits. I responded by describing the legislative history of the gross receipts tax and the impending $1.3 billion shortfall in the 2017-19 state general fund. In conclusion I muttered:

“Anyway, Phil makes a persuasive argument that 97 goes after forgone profit lost to the state by bad federal tax enforcement on profits vs. sales. This may or may not have anything to do with Umpqua Dairy’s tax liability. GMAFB! Over $25 million in Oregon? Tax increases are never popular. Without this particular tax solution at this time … Oregon’s in deep doodoo.  $1.3 B deficit in next biennium … Not one Republican has proposed an alternative … say no more. Ask Phil.” 

I copied Phil on the email and he sent this unsolicited response:

L.S.,

Tony raises some points I did not know about the bias of the owners of Umpqua that might raise skepticism. Please note that the article contains no numbers. There is no way to check to determine if the arguments are correct or not. Tony makes the correct point that the federal tax law that Oregon also uses to define profits is fatally flawed. Corporations used to pay about 18 percent of our General Fund and it is now about six percent and headed lower. About 50 of the largest corporations in the country, you could probably name them, will pay 80 percent of this tax. 

These are the same fine folks who, like The Donald, have figured out how not to pay taxes based on profits. The huge advantage of a minimum tax (at a much lower rate than the profits tax) based on sales in Oregon is that it is much simpler to calculate and therefore much harder to manipulate. These very large corporations have avoided paying their fair share for a long, long time. They need to pay up. This is the best way to get there. Please note that these corporations use our resources to support their businesses just like those who actually pay taxes. They should pay a minimum tax for education, health and senior services whether they make a profit or not. That theory is already well established in our property tax law. Sales is a good estimator of the corporation’s use of government resources. It turns out that profits (as currently defined) are not.

If M97 passes, I expect to spend 17 looking at requests from companies like Umpqua Dairy who will be asking for forbearance. If they can prove they are a special case, they will get it. At this point I have no idea. We did that after M67 passed as well and changed the law as it applied to a couple special cases.

Take a look also at the website at abetteroregon.com.

Only you can answer the basic question for yourself: Should we continue to cheat public school kids and Oregon’s future or should we risk a few unintended consequences of a new but very much needed tax?

Phil

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Anti-97 corporations have raised more than $17 million so far to defeat the measure. Contributors include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup, Chevron, Comcast, Costco, Albertsons, Safeway and Fred Meyer parent company Kroger.

Stay tuned and vote, dammit!