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First take/corporate taxes

Over the last few days the word has gone out, through a variety of media: Raise Oregon taxes significantly on major corporations, and a bunch of them may leave the state. That’s a tough argument against the tax initiative now underway.

It doesn’t seem to have hurt support for the measure though. A DHM Research poll conducted just before last week shows twice as much support (60% to 30%) as opposition to the measure. What it would do would tax sales (of tangible goods) and services above $25 million in the state; the idea would be to capture substantial tax revenue critics say has been escaping for some years.

The group Our Oregon, which is backing the initiative, said that “Just looking at Oregon, we know that in 2012, nearly 400 corporations exploited a loophole to bring their tax bills down to zero. That cost us $9 million dollars in much-needed revenue. Oregon taxpayers have handed out $6 billion in corporate subsidies. That money could have gone to our schools (which have been hit with devastating cuts in recent years), or to services for our seniors. It could have made healthcare more affordable, or made waiting lists for state services a bit more approachable.”

There will be plenty of opposition; the poll was financed in part by someone apparently interested in supporting an “alternative” proposal. And it is true that support for ballot issues tends to drop as time wears on, and a lot of time remains before the vote.

The argument that a bunch of corporations may pick up stakes walk from Oregon feels a little hollow, though. We heard the same kind of argument a few years ago that wealthy people would flee the state if voters passed an income tax increase on upper incomes; the voters did, and the flight didn’t happen. It wasn’t a big enough factor to outweigh the other costs and loss of income. Most likely, neither is this one. – rs

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