Measure 97: don’t buy a pig in a poke

piginapoke

After months of waffling and so-called reflection, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown now says she supports a whopping increase in business taxes through Ballot Measure 97. Surprise!

What liberal Democrat wouldn’t salivate over the prospect of $6.1 billion of additional state revenue in the 2017-19 biennium?

What’s dismaying is that Brown seems to be on the voters’ side, according to a recent poll by Clout Research. That poll, released on July 27, concluded the following with respect to Measure 97:

  • Yes              39%
  • No               34%
  • Not Sure    27.1%

The only saving grace here is that, according to FiveThirtyEight, Clout Research isn’t too reliable, earning a lousy C- ranking. Of the 9 Clout polls FiveThirtyEight reviewed, Clout called only 3 correctly. This compares, for example, with the ABC News/Washington Post which polled 78 percent of 51 races reviewed correctly and earned an A+ rating.

 Opponents of Measure 97 can also take some solace in the fact that The Clout poll  found support for the measure is diminishing. About 39 percent of respondents to the Clout poll favored the measure, versus 44 percent who favored it in early May.

Still, Brown’s support for Measure 97 is hard to fathom given the real impacts and uncertainties associated with the measure.

For example, Democrats always like to position themselves as dedicated, empathetic protectors of the poor. But Measure 97, if approved, would be a significant burden on the poor.

“…the gross receipts tax is subject to the same equity concerns as the retail sales tax because under most circumstances it eventually leads to higher consumer prices,” said Oregon’s nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office in a report. “Any tax that is based on general consumption will have a regressive impact on the distribution of the tax burden, meaning that lower income households will experience a higher tax burden as a percentage of their income than higher income households.”

According to the report, families earning up to $48,000 a year will see a 9 percent decrease in net household after-tax Income under Measure 97 after wages and prices have adjusted to the new tax policy. In contrast, families earning over $206,000 a year will see just a 4 percent decrease in net household after-tax Income.

In the same vein, Measure 97 would change the distribution of Oregon’s state and local tax burden to disadvantage low-income Oregonians. According to the report, families earning up to $48,000 a year would see their effective tax rate go up in the range of .51 percent-.80 percent. In contrast, the effective tax rate of families earning more than $206,000 would go up just .27 percent.

So much for the Democrat’s commitment to low-income families.

For a party that says so often that it wants fairness and equality in the economy, its support for Measure 97 is also inconsistent. That’s because Measure 97 could really cause the equality of Oregon’s corporate tax system to go seriously awry.

According to the Legislative Revenue Office report, gross receipts taxes, such as those proposed in Measure 97, can distort tax payments because of something called pyramiding. “Pyramiding occurs when the gross receipts tax is built in at the time each transaction occurs and then passed on to the next stage,” the report said. “Because industries vary greatly in the number of transactions that occur, the effective tax rates can be considerably higher for those industries with multiple transactions compared to those that have very few.”

A study by the Washington Legislature, cited in the Legislative Revenue Office report, backed up this conclusion. “Because the degree of pyramiding varies widely, this means that effective tax rates will vary widely among industries, thereby distorting market prices and decisions,” the report said.

With all their talk of fighting inequality, is that really what Democrats want, a flawed, unequal business tax system?

Democrats will also be relying on some very iffy revenue expectations if Measure 97 passes and they grow spending based on the Legislative Revenue Office’s revenue projections. The office’s report projects that the largest 274 corporations based on Oregon sales would see their annual Oregon taxes increase by over $2 billion, or most of the total tax revenue increase from Measure 97.

But the office emphasizes that this is a very dubious number. “Since these corporations are large, operate globally in many cases, and often have substantial market power; accurately predicting their behavioral response to a large tax increase presents numerous challenges. The individual behavioral response of these corporations will be a key factor in determining how the tax burden is ultimately distributed.”

Finally, Oregonians who support Measure 97 because they believe Democrats’ claims that the revenue would be committed to things like K-12 education and healthcare are tragically misinformed. On Aug. 1, 2016, the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Counsel released an opinion saying, in essence, the Legislature can do anything it damn pleases with Measure 97 revenue.

“Section 3 would not bind a future legislature in its spending decisions,” wrote Chief Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson in the opinion. “If Measure 97 becomes law, the Legislative Assembly may appropriate revenues generated by the measure in any way it chooses.”

In other words, don’t bet your sweet bippy on how this would all play out.

With all these negatives and uncertainties, do Oregonians really want to buy the Democrat’s and unions’ Measure 97 snake oil?

 

 

Hear that sucking sound? That’s Oregon tax Initiative Petition 28

Democrats and their union allies want to suck more money out of Oregon businesses than we thought.

govttaxes

Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Office predicted today (May 23, 2016) that Initiative Petition 28, if approved in November, would generate $6.1 billion in new revenue by the 2017-19 biennium. That’s almost $1 billion more than the $5.3 billion initially predicted.

Talk about greed!

The Revenue Office’s report also estimated that 38,220 private sector jobs would be lost by 2022 if the initiative passed. Meanwhile, in an odd twist, the public sector would add 17,700 jobs.

Talk about an absurd outcome!

And Gov. Kate Brown’s thoughtful response?  “I greatly appreciate the analysis provided by the Legislative Revenue Office, which helps inform our understanding of the impacts of IP-28,” Brown said. “As I have said previously, the problem I remain focused on is how to improve our graduation rate and fund essential services while sustaining economic growth and protecting Oregon jobs. I will begin discussions with my legislative colleagues about a way forward that, should the measure pass, would safeguard new revenue for education while sustaining economic growth and protecting Oregon jobs.”

Whew! Makes you wonder if the governor is being paid by the word.

Initiative Petition 28 is being promoted by A Better Oregon, a campaign organization operating under the umbrella of Portland-based Our Oregon, a coalition of unions and progressive groups.

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.

Corporate taxes during the 2017-2019 biennium under the current system are projected to reach about $1.1 billion.

In other words, the passage of Initiative petition 28 would increase corporate tax collections per biennium by almost 600 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.

“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.

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.

Then we’d all pay.

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.