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Monday, January 4, 2010

Oregonian Editorial Board: Hypocrisy On Tax Measure Endorsement Knows No Bounds

Posted by Matt Davis on Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 12:57 PM

Woah. File under "I did NOT see THIS coming." The Oregonian editorial board penned a lengthy endorsement yesterday advising its readers to vote against the legislature's modest tax hikes on corporations and those earning more than $250,000 a year. The strongly-worded piece, which reads more like a press release put out by the Portland Business Alliance than reasoned opinion, hits out at the Democratic legislature for "making an enemy of business" with the move:

This is ugly stuff, at an especially ugly time in Oregon. People are suffering, business is hurting, plunging tax revenues have ripped a $727 million hole in the state budget. There were, of course, no easy, pain-free and non-controversial ways for the Legislature to fill that hole and protect schools, public safety and other essential services.

But there were, and still are, better ways than Measures 66 and 67.


The tax hikes are "ill-timed," write the board. The legislature "can do better," and "lawmakers can work closely with business to craft a careful, responsible increase in corporate taxes." The rhetoric is eerily reminiscent of the lines employed on the national level by the health insurance lobby against health reform: We should wait. We can do it better. This isn't the right time. You get the idea. Then there's this line:
It doesn't have to replace the absurdly low $10 minimum corporate tax with a new scheme that would force businesses with high sales volumes but no profits to pay up to $100,000 a year in minimum taxes even as they fight to cut their losses and hold on to as many jobs as they can.

But it's not that simple.

"A company has to have $100million in Oregon sales in order for that to be the case, so these are not small businesses that will be paying under these measures," says Scott Moore, communications director with the Yes For Oregon campaign—a union-backed coalition pushing the yes vote. "There are 104 of those businesses in Oregon that are just paying the $10 minimum right now. 77 of those are headquartered out of state. Measure 67 finally requires large out of state corporations to pay more than $10 per year to do business in Oregon."

97.5 percent of the businesses in Oregon will pay either $150 or they won't pay any more than they pay today, under the new measure, says Moore. The measures protect schools funding, public safety, and senior services.

Oddly, the bOard agrees that there will be deep cuts if the measures fail, and that the chances of any second tax package passing in February are non-existent, yet they still think voters should say no just because, what? Because the legislature was mean to the corporate lobbyists who fought the move?

Worse still, the editorial is downright hypocritical when you read what the Odious ones wrote just 10 months ago about raising the beer tax. After talking about how the beer tax is modest and long-needed (sound familiar?), they spout this gem:

"Oregon's beverage industry will do what it always does: unleash its lobbyists in Salem, leverage the access it buys with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions every election and put on its best public face, trotting out appealing Oregon beermakers such as Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brothers and Gary Fish of Deschutes Brewery. You'll never see executives of Anheuser-Busch-Inbev. Instead, you'll see Widmer offering his back-of-the-bar-napkin math, arguing that a 15-cent per pint tax increase actually would lead to a price increase of up to $1.50 a glass, once everybody in the beer supply chain is done taking his or her cut."

Sound familiar again? Just like "you'll never see executives of Sprint or Bank of America or Merill Lynch, instead you'll see a Tillamook dairy farmer, offering her back-of-the-napkin math arguing that $150 is going to close down her farm." Actual quote:
"There is a better, more responsible way: The beer industry could use its expertise to help lawmakers craft a modest and fair tax increase — even one that left Oregon's tax in the bottom third of state beer taxes — dedicate the revenue to alcohol treatment and wipe this issue off the table, once and for all."

I mean, wow. The hypocrisy. When the beer lobby opposes raising a tax on beer drinkers, they're lambasted as being obstructionist, pig-bellied lobbyists who will stoop to any low to block the tax increase. But corporate lobbyists oppose modest taxes on corporations and the rich, it's those evil Democrats' fault for not bowing to their every wish?

Steve Novick, who is also working to get the measures approved, describes the Oxy-morons as "in an abusive relationship" with corporate lobbyists in a post on Blue Oregon this morning. On December 30, his yes campaign released poll data showing voters are leaning toward the measures by a 17-point margin.

Our endorsement interviews on the measures are scheduled for later this week. There's also a City Club forum on Friday, January 8, scheduled for 12:15, between Novick and Pat McCormick, who is pushing the no vote. It promises to be fascinating, and we'll have a round-up here.

Meanwhile, Moore suggests three things you can do if you're frustrated with the endOrsement: 1.Volunteer to knock on doors or make phone calls to get supporters out to vote. 2. Donate some money to help the Yes campaign talk to undecided voters. 3.Write a letter to the editor.

Meanwhile if you're on the other side of the fence, Erica Hagedorn with the No campaign has some tips for you. 1.Donate! 2.Read media clippings! 3.Get involved!

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