A new poll indicates that Oregon voters strongly favor two ballot measures that would raise taxes on corporations, as well as on individuals making over $125,000 and households with an income over $250,000.
Measure 66, which would raise taxes on higher-earning taxpayers, is favored by 52% to 39%. Measure 67, which would increase both the corporate minimum tax and certain corporate tax rates, is favored by 50% to 40%.
The increased revenue would go to maintain public services, schools, health care, and public safety. Over $1 billion is at stake -- $733 million in direct revenue and the rest in matching funds from federal programs. The bulk of the increases would be temporary.
Both measures were passed last year by the Oregon state legislature, but a group called Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes quickly raised over a million dollars and collected enough signatures to force the proposals to be decided by a special election this month.
Ironically, this has now had the effect of moving the voting, which concludes next Tuesday, to a period when anti-corporate feeling is on the increase.
A diarist at Daily Kos reported in July that Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes was "led by veteran conservative lobbyist Mark Nelson (who has represented a number of conservative clients, most notably the tobacco industry). This PAC has raised $189,000 so far, with $100,000 coming from four major conservative PACs (the Restaurant Association, the Housing Lobby, Automobile Dealers and Grocery Stores) and the rest coming from a collection of businesses including oil companies among others."
A story in Thursday's Oregonian concluded that the outcome was likely to depend on turnout, since "both campaigns are using cutting-edge database and phone technology that factor in everything from consumer habits to reading preferences to select voters who could be the deciding factor in an election that both sides acknowledge has grown very tight." That story, however, appears to have been written before the release of the latest poll.
The fight on both sides has been drawn out and bitter. According to the Curry County Reporter, claims by opponents of the measures that the tax package would cost the state 70,000 private-sector jobs are based on unrealistic projections developed by a conservative think-tank. On the other hand, the allegation by supporters that a failure to pass the measure would result in mass layoffs of public school teachers "significantly overstates the case."
Oregonian columnist David Sarasohn, however, sees the greatest distortions as lying with Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes. He points out that one ad which claims that the state government has ""$259 million to pay for state employee pay increases" is based on nothing more substantial than a 2007 projection "of what pay raises might have been in 2009-2011 -- if the world hadn't come apart between then and now."
"There may well be reasonable cases to be made against Measures 66 and 67, but Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes is running the most duplicitous initiative campaign since the Oregon Citizens Alliance was riding high in the 1990s," Sarasohn concludes. "The No campaign -- depicting a state government increasing its spending when it's actually spending less, raising its employees' wages when they're actually lower, and a potential $140 tax increase so crushing it closes down small businesses in neighboring states -- goes beyond distorted to imaginary."