Here is an obvious and unsettling fact: when an industry pours a lot of money into passing initiatives and electing candidates friendly to their interests, it pays off. Powerful corporations do not get that way by wasting their money on unprofitable schemes. Oregon is one of five states that allow unlimited corporate campaign contributions. This stems from our state constitution that has free speech clauses that have been interpreted to equate money to speech.
Because many powerful corporations have been effective at “buying” tax loopholes and subsidies, corporation’s share of the state revenue has fallen from 18% to 6.7% in recent decades. The Oregon Lottery contributes more to the state budget than all the income taxes from Oregon’s corporations combined!
(Really? Yes. Oregonians, often in poverty and/or struggling with gambling addiction do more to support our schools and other vital public services than Wells Fargo, Verizon, Walmart and all the other corporations doing business in Oregon combined.)
Corporate lobbyists have been so successful that, for the past few years, some corporations with millions in profits pay no Oregon income tax.
Because of the abuse of corporate “speech”, it is time to balance the power dynamic between the vote and the dollar by changing our states constitution. Forty-five other states have figured it out. We can too.
What do I mean by corporations “buying” tax loopholes? Measures 103 and 104 are perfect examples of powerful corporations gaming the system to continue reducing their responsibility for the schools, roads, courts and public safety services that make it possible for them to do business.
Measure 103 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Obviously, there is no need for a constitutional ban on a sales tax on groceries. Oregon voters have resoundingly rejected a sales tax in any form multiple times. So what is it really about? Creating a constitutional tax loophole that freezes the corporate minimum tax for grocers. Kroger, Costco, and Albertsons Safeway have donated a combined $1.96 million, or 98.86 percent supporting measure 103. Need I say more?
Measure 104 will create a super minority in the state legislature enabling only 13 senators to lock in the corporate tax giveaways that are crippling our state.
But wait, hasn’t Oregon’s Democrat led government already created a business unfriendly environment with high taxes and environmental regulations? Hardly. Oregon’s gross domestic product growth has consistently ranked among the top five states. Sometimes finishing closely behind those states like North Dakota that are fracking themselves. It is a well-published fact that the overall business tax rate in Oregon is the lowest in the country. “But wait!” Some say, “That’s because we don’t have a sales tax!” Right! Businesses don’t have to pay sales tax on the stuff they buy and their overall tax rate the lowest in the country.
So yeah, it is time, it is past time to rein in corporate power with a state constitutional amendment and by electing representatives that have not received thousands of corporate dollars and will not do the bidding of corporate lobbyists. Elect representatives that will fight for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.