Next month, Oregonians will be asked to cast their votes for new elected leaders, as well as to weigh in on important issues facing our state and our communities. One of these important issues will be presented on your ballot as Measure 97. Some of you may already be familiar with this ballot measure because it has generated considerable controversy throughout the state, and has been widely reported on by the media and in advertising spots by various interest groups, since it was included on the ballot.
Overview of Ballot Measure 97
Measure 97 is asking the voters of Oregon to decide whether they support a new 2.5% tax on certain corporations on their sales above $25 million a year in Oregon. New taxes or tax increases in Oregon must be presented to the voters, which is why you are being asked to decide the fate of Measure 97. If a majority of Oregon voters vote in favor of Measure 97, it will be approved and become law in Oregon. If a majority of voters cast their ballots against the measure, it will not be approved.
AARP Oregon is not taking a position on Measure 97. However, we do want to help you - Oregon AARP members and your families – be fully informed about Measure 97, and the arguments both for and against its passage. With this information, it will be up to you to decide how to cast your vote.
In Oregon, the state budget provides funding for services for the most vulnerable older adults, including supports and services for low income Oregonians with significant care needs. In 2017, the state will be facing a budget shortfall of about $750 million. If Measure 97 is approved, it would raise about $3 billion a year for the budget from its new tax on certain corporations, which would cover the shortfall and potentially provides additional revenue specifically designated for education, health care, and senior services. However, some of the new corporate taxes may be passed along to consumers in the way of higher prices and might cause reduced job growth in the state.
Arguments in Support of Measure 97
Supporters of Measure 97, which include parents, teachers, health care workers, business owners, and community leaders, maintain that by raising the corporate tax for some of the world’s largest corporations, Oregon can invest in its working families, children, and seniors. They further argue that Oregon ranks 50 th in the nation for corporate taxes, only the largest corporations doing business in Oregon will pay the new tax, and that the vast majority of the more than 400,000 businesses in Oregon will not see their taxes go up. They argue that the measure is necessary because there has been a 61% increase in seniors living in poverty in the last ten years, Oregon has the third largest class sizes and the fourth lowest high school graduation rates in the U.S., and thousands of Oregonians could lose their health insurance if it does not pass. Other supporters of Measure 97 include the City Club of Portland. In reaching the conclusion to support Measure 97, the City Club found that the benefits of added revenue that the Legislature could invest in education, health care, and senior services outweighed any potential detriments created by the measure. Oregon’s Governor, Kate Brown, is also supporting Measure 97, arguing that the state cannot move forward and meet its growing needs over the next decade without a more stable revenue base, which Measure 97 will provide.
Arguments in Opposition to Measure 97
Measure 97 also has its detractors. The measure is opposed by a broad coalition of large and small businesses, family farmers, and some taxpayers. This coalition argues that most of Measure 97’s tax on corporate sales would wind up being passed onto Oregon consumers through higher prices on nearly all goods, such as clothing, medicine, utilities, and possibly even food. In addition, the opposition coalition maintains that taxing business sales could result in a loss of jobs, because of lower profit margins and higher operating costs. Finally, the opposition argues that Measure 97 does not provide the taxpayers with a sufficient guarantee on how the new revenue will be spent. Their concern is that while supporters of Measure 97 maintain the new revenue will be directed toward education, health care, and senior services, the revenue will actually be deposited into the state’s General Fund where it could be spent in any way and on any initiatives the Legislature chooses. On the other hand, elected officials who support the measure, including Governor Brown, have committed to using the money as the voters expect.
Fiscal and Economic Analysis
Oregon’s nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office, whose responsibility it is to evaluate proposed legislation and ballot initiatives for cost and economic impact in the state, has released its report evaluating the potential effects of Measure 97 on Oregon’s businesses, taxpayers, and consumers. The Office confirmed that the initiative would raise approximately $3 billion a year. It also found that it could slightly diminish the growth of income, employment, and population over the next 5 years. The higher taxes required by Measure 97 are expected to lead to higher consumer prices, but also higher wages, according to the Legislative Revenue Office. Additionally, the Office found that this new tax could help to stabilize the state’s budget. The Legislative Revenue Office also acknowledged that their estimates were a little uncertain because the state had never before experienced such a large revenue increase concentrated on such a small group of large corporations, as less than 1% of all Oregon businesses will pay this tax.
AARP Oregon knows that Oregonians want to age in their own homes among family and friends, and remain active in their communities for as long as possible. To be able to do this successfully, our state must have the resources it needs to invest in senior services such as those that help seniors take care of themselves in their homes, provide respite or relief to family caregivers, and accessible and affordable transportation alternatives so that seniors, caregivers, and health care professionals can more easily get to doctor’s appointments and patients.
Each voter must decide whether Measure 97 provides the most effective and efficient way for our state to provide these resources. AARP Oregon stands ready to work with our members, the public, all interest groups, and our elected officials on solutions to our state’s budget crisis and making sure that our state remains a place where individuals, young and older, as well as businesses can thrive.
Most importantly, AARP Oregon urges you to get informed and vote!
[Istock Photo: 123ducu]