Our Oregon: shooting Oregon in the foot – Dems and unions want more money to spend on more “stuff”


Tax big business. “Yeah.. that’s the ticket! Yeah, you betcha!,” SNL’s Tommy Flanagan would say.


A Better Oregon, a campaign organization operating under the umbrella of Portland-based Our Oregon, a coalition of unions and progressive groups, agrees.

A Better Oregon is promoting Initiative Petition 28 for the November 2016 ballot. The measure would raise the corporate minimum tax on Oregon sales of more than $25 million a year from the current minimum of $50,000 to $30,001 plus 2.5 percent of the excess over $25 million. The tax would be based solely on sales, not profit.

The Legislative Revenue Office estimates the corporate tax measure would raise $5.3 billion during the 2017-2019 biennium. Corporate taxes during that biennium under the current system are projected to reach about $1.1 billion.

In other words, the measure would increase corporate tax collections per biennium by a whopping 400 percent in one fell swoop.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), when endorsing the measure, said it would eliminate much of the constant need to choose between funding critical budget concerns each legislative session. “If that passes, we’ll have a lot of money to pay for stuff,” Greenlick said.

Otherwise, Greenlick said, most of the additional revenue in the economic forecast for the 2017-2019 budget would go to cover increased PERS liabilities and the state’s increased share of Medicaid funding, leaving little additional revenue for new stuff.

But not to worry, says Ben Unger, executive director of Our Oregon. The extra money won’t come out of your pocket. It will come mostly from large out-of-state corporations.

About 1,000 corporations doing business in Oregon, mostly multi-state corporations, would be affected by the higher taxes.

“This measure will make sure that large and out-of-state corporations do their part to fund the schools and services that will make Oregon thrive,” Our Oregon says on its website.

As long ago as I can remember advocates for higher taxes in Oregon have been making “out-of-state corporations” the bogeyman, the malignant beast that’s doing Oregonians wrong and needs to pay.

But as attractive a target as these corporations are, they’re not fools. They will find a way to avoid paying the taxes or they’ll pass on the added taxes to Oregon consumers as a stealth sales tax.

Moving a company’s headquarters to another state with a more congenial tax environment, as GE is doing with its recently announced shift from Connecticut to Massachusetts, won’t solve the problem, but there are always run-arounds.

Maybe some businesses will change their ownership form to get sales in Oregon under the $25 million trigger. Others may institute some special, higher regional pricing.

Some creative companies may become benefit corporations. Our Oregon thought it was being clever and supportive of the “good guys” when it inserted a provision in its initiative to exclude benefit companies under ORS 60.754 from the higher taxes. But this opened a loophole ripe for exploitation.

The liberal coalition behind Initiative petition 28, recalling their success in a tax increase battle in 2010, may be figuring they have a sure thing again with another measure targeting big business, but hopefully Oregonians in their wisdom will see this  proposal is a reach too far.



Woodfold Manufacturing redefining business success

Some businesspeople want to do more than just build a successful enterprise; they also want to be a force for good.

In Forest Grove, the leaders of Woodfold Manufacturing believe in the capacity of business to do more than just produce jobs and profits.

Founded in 1957, Woodfold has continued to thrive as an employee-owned and operated company that’s a leading supplier of custom-crafted accordion doors, roll-up doors, hardwood shutters and bookcase doors for residential and commercial installations.

Woodfold has also become a company dedicated to the idea that true business sustainability considers the relationships between the environment, community and people.

Over the years that has meant big reductions in electricity and natural gas use, increases in recycling, achievement of a Forest Stewardship Councilcertification, and even providing free gardening space for a local charter school.

Setting higher bar

On May 14, 2013, Woodfold took a further step by becoming a Certified B Corp. “We became certified because we have always held certain core values at Woodfold, such as working for the long term and measuring things in regard to the triple bottom line,” said Justin Norman, Woodfold’s vice president for business development.

A company’s B Corp status is conferred by B Lab, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, on business entities that meet certain criteria. A certification means the company’s policies and practices have been verified to be sustainable through a rigorous process called the B Impact Assessment.

“Woodfold’s first commitment is to our people and doing the right thing,” said the company’s CEO, Mark Lewis. “It just so happens that a commitment to those to things makes it pretty easy to meet the B Corp certification standards.”

A company can become a B Corp regardless of its legal structure so long as it scores well on B Lab’s assessment and verification process. There are currently 894 certified B Corporations in 29 countries.

By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business, B Lab says.

Simply seeking B Corp certification can have benefits, too. “Despite scoring relatively well on the certification, we still have a long way to go, as do almost all B Corps, because neither us nor anyone to my knowledge has ever attained a perfect score,” Norman said. “Since we are big into continuous improvement, it would not make any sense for us to stand still and not try to keeping improving things here at Woodfold, which in turn will lend itself to a higher score down the road.”

There are also rewards to just participating in the B Lab review because companies become more aware of evaluation standards and can set goals for improvement.

B Corps vs. Benefit Companies

As we begin 2014, Woodfold faces another decision: whether to also become a Benefit Company. B Corps and Benefit Companies sound similar, but they are quite different and the difference goes beyond semantics.

A state law permitting businesses to become Benefit Companies took effect in Oregon on January 2, 2014. Securing a B Corp designation is more a branding effort than a legal step. To embrace legally binding sustainability obligations, a business must register as a Benefit Company.

Benefit companies write into their governing documents that management is permitted to pursue social and environmental benefits alongside shareholder interest. That means they can are make business decisions that run contrary to maximizing shareholder value, putting purpose over profits.

According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, this goes beyond traditional corporate social responsibility, where companies support social and charitable programs that improve the corporation’s image. It is, instead, about managing and holding organizations accountable for performance targeted at optimizing a combination of financial, social and environmental outcomes.

“We want to make sure that things play out as expected before we go for Benefit Company status in Oregon,” said Lewis. “One of the things we try very hard not to do at Woodfold is whipsaw our people by constant course changes. The first thing we wanted to do is use the B Corp standards to test our management philosophy. We will explore the pros and cons of becoming a Benefit Corp and make a decision on that later in 2014.”