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Citizen's View: Measure 97 overflows with empty promises

According to the ballot title, Oregon’s Measure 97 is a 2.5-percent tax on businesses with gross sales that exceed $25 million a year, with the intent of spending that money on education, senior services and health care.

Supporters want us to believe large companies can absorb this tax, that small local businesses and consumers will be protected and education will be funded.

The truth paints a different picture.

Rep. John Davis, R-Wilsonville, asked the following question of Ted Reutlinger, chief deputy legislative counsel: “Would lawmakers be required to spend the new tax revenue in the three areas specified by the measure as stated in the ballot measure title?”

Reutlinger’s response: “The answer is no. The measure would not bind a future Legislature in its spending decisions. If Measure 97 becomes law, the legislative assembly may appropriate revenues generated by the measure in any way it chooses.”

Any way it chooses? Troubling.

Measure 97 will increase the state budget by 30 percent with absolutely no guarantee that funds will be used for education or seniors. What can be expected, however, is a cost increase on nearly everything Oregonians need and buy — gas, food, electricity, internet, medicine, hospital care, homes and clothing. There are no exceptions.

This stealth sales tax harms seniors on fixed incomes, neighborhood grocery stores operating on less than a 2 percent margin and families who need private sector jobs to pay their bills and raise their families.

The measure is a tax on gross sales, not profits. Passage will cost the average Oregon household more than $600 every year and will remove more than 38,000 private sector jobs, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office.

Oregon’s ability to be competitive inside and outside its borders will change if Measure 97 becomes law. If something costs less across the river, there is no stopping that shopping decision.

Our new high-tech start-up companies, who generally take several years to show profit, will think twice about calling Oregon their business home.

Measure 97 is a sales tax in sheep’s clothing with disturbing ramifications to those who can least afford the tax increase ... the lowest wage earners, seniors and small, local businesses.

Is Measure 97 about tax reform, as Gov. Kate Brown has suggested? If so, it is missing comprehensive partnerships. Public servants must sit down with a broad base of stakeholders, roll up their sleeves, have an honest discussion and be willing to make tough compromising decisions best for all Oregonians.

Passage of Measure 97 would:

— Force on citizens the largest tax increase in Oregon’s history;

— Provide a blank check to the Legislature with no guarantees;

— Increase household costs to everyday families;

— Assure job losses; and

— Put a chilling effect on our businesses’ competition via a ballot measure. This is not tax reform — it’s irresponsible and reckless.

Contrary to the well-funded soundbites and emotional tugging at heartstrings, Measure 97 will do more harm to all of us than the promised “good.” Please vote no on Measure 97.

Lynn Snodgrass is CEO of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and the former speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.