Opponents react: Kate Brown's support of Measure 97 'worst kept secret in Oregon'

Portland Business Journal - August 4, 2016

Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday broke her silence on whether she supported a controversial ballot measure that will tax Oregon's biggest revenue-generating companies, calling it a necessary initiative to stabilize the state's revenue base.

But critics of the measure say Brown's support of Measure 97 wasn't a surprise at all.

Bud Pierce, a Salem oncologist, is the Republican candidate for govenor. Pierce is opposed to the corporate tax initiative called Measure 97 while incumbent Gov. Kate Brown supports the ballot measure.

“Gov. Brown’s support of Measure 97 was the worst kept secret in Salem," House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte said Thursday in a prepared statement. "Today, she apparently decided it was time to come clean with Oregon voters. Now let’s see how many other Democratic candidates are going to be honest with voters about their support for the largest tax increase in Oregon history.”

Measure 97, formerly referred to as IP 28, would add a 2.5 percent tax on top-line sales, or gross receipts, of companies with more than $25 million in Oregon sales. The measure would generate $6.1 billion in new revenue by the 2017-19 biennium if it passes, according to a report issued in May by the state Legislative Revenue Office. But that same report estimates it could also lead to 38,220 lost jobs in Oregon's private sector by 2022, a figure offset only slightly by the addition of 17,700 public sector jobs.

On June 3, Brown issued a statement indicating that, if passed, she would steer proceeds from the measure to education, low-income families and benefits for businesses, including payroll tax relief. But she stopped short of endorsing the measure until it was assured that the initiative would receive enough signatures to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Though it was deemed ballot eligible just three days later, on June 6, Brown waited to declare her endorsement of it until this morning, saying there's a "basic unfairness" in Oregon's tax system in which "working families pay an increasing share for state and local services."

"Our state cannot move forward and meet Oregon’s growing needs over the next decade without a more stable revenue base," Brown said. "Measure 97 is an important step forward."

Brown's support of the measure puts her in stark contrast with Bud Pierce, the Salem oncologist who's attempting to upend her quest for a full-term as governor.

Like McLane, Brown also said he wasn't surprised by Brown's position. Her statement in June outlining how she would allocate the proceeds, he said, telegraphed her position.

"She obviously supported the measure, but was afraid to take an unpopular position.” said Pierce. “Governor Brown has sided with the entrenched special interests rather than low income and middle class Oregonians.”

More locally, Portland Business Alliance CEO Sandra McDonough said the group is "deeply disappointed" in Brown's decision.

"We are confident that Oregon voters will understand that this largest tax increase in our state’s history is more than Oregon families can afford and they will vote no," McDonough said in a statement.