Oregon: Just say NO on Measure 97
Oregon is characterized as a liberal state; however, Oregonians have consistently voted to reject the introduction of a sales tax. But this year, a cleverly deceptive campaign was launched to convince voters that large corporations doing business in Oregon will finally pay their fair share in order to fund the state’s education, healthcare and senior services should voters support Measure 97.
Measure 97 has recently garnered much national attention. Proponents of the bill have framed the narrative as though out-of-state corporations with business interests and dealings in Oregon have cheated Oregonians out of precious funds for education, healthcare coverage or a retirement with dignity. The website (http://www.voteyeson97.org/) states the following:
What investments will Measure 97 allow us to make?
By asking large and out-of-state corporations to pay their fair share in Oregon taxes, we could build a truly better Oregon! We could improve graduation rates, ensure every Oregonian is covered by health insurance, and allow seniors to retire with dignity.
We could dramatically improve the quality of our kids’ education. We could hire back more than 7,000 teachers to get class sizes to the national average, and we could restore critical days of instruction — which would improve our high school graduation rate.
With our measure in place, we could fully fund a statewide modern public health system. We could ensure that health coverage is more affordable for Oregon families. Everyone deserves access to early and effective care, and we will finally be able to make that a reality.
We could help thousands of Oregon seniors stay in their homes longer and retire with dignity. Our measure would restore funding to critical programs that older Oregonians rely on.
What is not explained is ‘how’ education, healthcare or services for seniors will be improved, by what means or even how businesses targeted in this bill are responsible for poor decisions enacted by the state’s leadership. After all, Cover Oregon, the state’s premier in-state exchange, was to provide seamless health insurance for all and instead became the laughing stock of the nation in 2013 when it failed to the tune of nearly $250 million. Costly delays, poor website functioning and oversight, and a failure of leadership and management starting with former governor, John Kitzhaber, left the Oregon taxpayer with the tab. In addition to nearly $250 million wasted by the state, Oregonians were placed onto the federal exchange anyway just six months after Cover Oregon failed to launch, and those responsible for the appalling debacle were not held accountable – not even by voters. Measure 97’s supporters correctly note that healthcare premiums and deductibles are rising, but that is due to the dictates of the Affordable Care Act and Oregon’s mishandling of Medicaid funds, not businesses outside of Oregon.
Education and healthcare are always a favorite topic of politicians and special interests as though pouring more money into a deplorable, failing public education or public healthcare system will eventually make it better. Let us observe some of the special interests backing Measure 97, who have a vested interest in making sure their programs remain relevant in the lives of school children and in promoting a redefinition of ‘healthcare’ in Oregon: NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, Oregon AFL-CIO, SEIU, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, American Federation of Teachers Oregon, League of Latin American Citizens of Lane County (LULAC), First Unitarian Economic Justice Committee, Oregon Working Families Party, and the list continues.
If voters support Measure 97, the ‘investments’ will go to the government employee unions and organizations, their carefully bought and paid for politicians and of course, their interests. The tax will go to grow the influence of unions and community organizing outfits in cradle-to-grave education programs mired in common core, advancing pro-abortion services and materials – not just in educational institutions but in healthcare service delivery. NARAL and Planned Parenthood alone would have significantly more influence in Salem when considerations are brought forth to the Health Evidence Review Committee (HERC) to be placed on the Prioritized List of covered health services under The Oregon Health Plan (OHP), which has placed ‘gender dysphoria’ on the list of services Oregon’s taxpayers are forced to fund for Medicaid recipients identifying as ‘transgender’.
Measure 97 proponents also claim the tax revenue will fund services for seniors, such as ‘allowing’ them to stay in their own homes longer; however, as opponents of the bill have pointed out, senior citizens will be among the most vulnerable should Measure 97 pass as it is a tax passed on to the consumer. Those on fixed incomes – especially seniors and the poor – will find a trip to the grocery store more expensive, not only in rising food costs but in filling up the gas tank to get to the store. Seniors also access medications and healthcare services more often than their younger counterparts, which should concern every voter considering this measure. For the elderly man or woman needing multiple medications, hospital stays, durable medical equipment, home services, etc., there will be an additional hardship placed on their personal finances should Measure 97 pass.
Consider also that the tax is actually on sales of $25 million or more, not profits. A company’s sales do not translate as their profit. After overhead, taxes, benefits, etc., profits are considerably lower than perceived. Measure 97 would deeply impact how companies operate in the entire state along with the cost, which will be placed on the shoulders of every Oregon family.
As noted on the No On 97 website (www.NoOn97.com):
Measure 97 is a tax on total sales – not profits – that would increase consumer costs for all types of products and services.
Measure 97 on the November 2016 ballot is a tax increase proposal created by government employee unions. It would impose a 2.5% state tax on sales of goods and services in Oregon. It has no exemptions – not even for essentials like food and medicine. And, unlike an income tax, it would tax a company’s total sales, not its profits. The tax would be directly imposed on the businesses that provide the majority of goods and services in our state. But most of the costs would be passed on to Oregon consumers and small businesses through higher prices for everything from food, gasoline, electricity, natural gas, phone service, cable TV and Internet service to cars, insurance, medicine and healthcare. Nonpartisan economists at Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Office (LRO) concluded that Measure 97 would cost a typical Oregon family over $600 per year.
Unlike a sales tax, in which the item being bought is taxed only once, Measure 97 is a gross receipts tax, as noted on the NoOn97 website and Tax Foundation, meaning that the item being bought is taxed at every level of production. Whether the item is food being grown, packaged, shipped and distributed or fuel being refined, transported and brought to your local gas station, the costs will be passed on to each company involved in the handling of the product until reaching its destination with the result being an increased price for the buyer. Furthermore, businesses also have to purchase goods to maintain their product and livelihoods, so the tax burden for Oregon’s small businesses are multiplied.
In addition to costing a typical Oregon family an estimated $600 per year, the LRO also found the tax would cost Oregon 38,000 private sector jobs. Interestingly, with higher taxes imposed on the consumer, there would be higher wages – for public sector jobs. Therein lies part of the goal of the bill: to put more control of private industry into the hands of the state. As more tax revenue is taken in by the state, fewer profits are generated by the large companies resulting in stagnant growth and job losses, primarily in the small business community (mom & pop shops, franchises, local gas stations, etc.), who deal with the larger (parent) companies. More public sector jobs will be created whether it is to oversee the funds, hire the 7,000 teachers cited by the bill’s proponents or to unionize jobs once held by the private sector. Why else would teacher unions, SEIU and the Oregon AFL-CIO (among others) be backing the measure?
Also misleading is the data presented by supporters of the bill claiming Oregon ranks last in corporate taxes. A report on TaxFoundation.org noted that there are many ways to assess Oregon’s ranking among states regarding corporate taxes, “but the supporters of Measure 97 are not using this sort of data. They are using a report that quantifies business tax burdens and suggesting that it is the same thing as corporate tax burdens. Businesses and corporations, in this context, are not the same thing.”
The report also noted that Oregon’s business taxes are low due to the absence of a sales tax – not low corporate taxes.
Ultimately, Measure 97 is void of specifics in just how an estimated $6 billion in new tax revenue will be monitored, spent and actually used to benefit communities or improve education, healthcare and the lives of seniors. Once placed in the general fund, it is anyone’s guess. What it does ensure is that Oregonians will be faced with a multi-layered tax that will be the largest in Oregon’s history, and it will be the very people and businesses the bill is purported to help who will suffer the most.
Image Source: George Hodan
License: Public Domain
Lisa currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her artwork, a ton of books and her cats.
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