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Opinion » Editorial

The Enrich-the-Rich Tax Repeal Campaign

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Having a big business in Oregon is a pretty sweet deal, tax-wise. The corporate minimum tax is $10 a year - no, we did not mistakenly leave off any zeroes - a figure unchanged since our last Great Depression in the 1930s.

Contrary to conservative propaganda, Oregon is not exactly a tax hell for businesses. The Tax Foundation, a pro-business group, puts Oregon at Number 14 overall in its latest rankings of state tax climates for business.

So it makes good sense for this revenue-strapped state to enact a moderate tax increase on businesses. And the measure adopted by the legislature last spring, along with another one raising personal income taxes, fits any definition of "moderate." Sole proprietorships would see no increase in their tax rate. Certain others types of businesses (ordinary partnerships and S, LLC and LLP corporations, to get technical) would have their minimum increased to $150 a year.

Type C corporations - typically the bigger ones - would see their minimum rise to $150 if their sales in Oregon are less than $500,000. On sales are greater than that, they'd pay on a sliding scale that would go no higher than 15 cents for every $100.

The legislature also voted to raise personal income tax rates for individuals earning $125,000 or more or households making $250,000 or more. That leaves out 97% of Oregonians. Together, the corporate tax increases and the personal increase are expected to raise $733 million, without which the state will have to cut - again - into education, public safety and other important services.

These modest increases on the state's richest individuals and biggest businesses don't seem like such a bitter pill. But opponents claim they're a dose of economic cyanide. They've turned in some 250,000 signatures - more than double the number needed - to put repeal of what they're calling "the job-killing tax hikes" on the ballot in January.

The labor to collect those signatures came from an army of volunteers who buy into the familiar "all taxes are EEEEEE-vul" rhetoric of the right. But the cash - more than $1 million of it - came from the big corporate interests that stand to gain the most. The timber giant Weyerhaeuser Corp. alone kicked in $50,000.

The repeal campaign is another example of how the Oregon initiative and referendum process has been perverted. Originally designed to enable citizens to get good laws enacted or bad ones repealed when the legislature was corrupt or unresponsive, it has become a powerful tool that corporations and their political front groups use to stymie progressive ideas and push reactionary ones.

Unless somebody finds a way to take the money out of the process - which looks about as likely as Dick Cheney becoming the next "American Idol" - there's no way to fix it, and we've been tempted to give THE BOOT to the whole thing. But in the hope that reform someday, somehow will happen - and in the knowledge that despite everything, good measures sometimes DO get passed - we'll refrain, and content ourselves with BOOTing the absurd and irresponsible tax repeal campaign.

Speaking of The Boot

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