This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Timber & Oil Companies Bankroll Anti-Tax Measure

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 12:31 PM

Alarmingly-named anti-tax group Oregonians Against Job Killing Taxes filed two referenda last week that aim to repeal the tax pacakge the legislature passed last session to patch some of the budget hole for Oregon education, health care and human services.

State politico and Defend Oregon staffer Steve Novick spells out what would happen if voters don't support the emergency $733 million tax package: "If everything gets hit proportionally, it would be the equivalent of 2,000 old people losing care and 20,000 children losing health care coverage." The personal income tax increase will apply to only the 1.7 wealthiest percent of Oregonians and the new corporate minimum tax, which hasn't been raised in 78 years, will make only 12 percent of corporations pay an annual tax of more than $150.

So who are these people who want to take healthcare away from kids rather than increasing taxes on big corporations? Looking at contributors to Job Killing Taxes, it turns out to be primarily lumber and oil companies. Of the whopping $1.13 million the campaign has raised, timber and paper companies donated over $300,000. Oil companies altogether donated nearly $100,000. That makes the Target's $500 donation look like chump change.

The biggest individual contributor to the anti-tax referendum is Timothy Boyle, president of Columbia Sportswear and a trustee of Reed College. BusinessWeek listed his salary in 2008 as $804,231. Both Boyle and petroleum-dealer John Truax gave $10,000 to the anti-tax campaign.

The single largest entity donating to the campaign is Associated Oregon Industries, which funneled $123,000 to the cause. Ironically, points out Defend Oregon, the Associated Oregon Industries circulated a plan in the legislature earlier this year that would have raised taxes. Their plan would have set a flat $300 corporate minimum tax and raised taxes on everyone who makes more than $7000. As Defend Oregon’s Scott Moore puts it, “The number one funder who says new taxes kill jobs wanted to raise taxes on people who were at or below the federal poverty level.”

So how has the organization that decries Oregon's "wasteful spending" been spending all its dough? Well, $550,000 of it went to paid signature gatherers. Another $123, 913 went to hiring one of the most powerful (and pricey) lobbying agencies around: the Public Affairs Counsel, a lobbying group staffed by Mark Nelson (pictured at right) along with Erica Hagedorn and former right-wing Oregonian columnist David Reinhard.

The anti-tax group also seems to have given a lot of its money away to like-minded groups. The campaign finance reports detail $3,000 in expenditures to the Oregon Republican Party and $11,806 given to Oregonians for Food and Shelter, a pesticide/ forestry/agriculture lobbying group.

Oregonians will likely vote on these taxes in January.

Update 3:20PM: Job Killing Taxes media rep Pat McCormick responds that oil and timber companies were the first groups to give major contributions to the group because the new tiered corporate tax on .1 percent of Oregon sales over $500,000 “particularly irritated” those industries. “The tax is particularly disadvantageous to gas stations and other extremely low-volume, high-margin high-volume, low-margin operations. At a time when Oregon is in the middle of a recession, it does not make any sense to be raising taxes,” says McCormick.

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