Oregonians could be voting on taxes, abortion and immigration this fall.
With the Friday, July 6, deadline approaching for initiative petitions, the lineup of ballot measures for voters is becoming more certain. At this point, three tax-related measures appear headed to the statewide ballot — although Gov. Kate Brown is attempting to work out a compromise that could change the lineup.
On top of that, a measure that would increase business taxes on big retailers in Portland also appears to have a good chance of going before voters in the state’s largest city.
“At the end of the day,” she said of the initiative sponsors, “they’re just going to have to spend a lot more money on the airwaves explaining just what is going on.”
Two other statewide initiatives may also make the ballot — and both would be likely to spark heated debate.
A group seeking to crack down on illegal immigration wants to repeal Oregon’s so-called sanctuary law. That 1980s-era statute limits local and state involvement with federal immigration enforcement.
Anti-abortion activists hope to take an initiative to voters that would bar state funding for abortion. Their major target is to halt low-income women from getting abortions through the Oregon Health Plan. But the wording of the measure is broad enough that it could also prevent abortions from being covered in public employee health plans.
One proposed ballot measure that received a lot of attention — a ban on many semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines — will not be on the ballot. Backers had the support of an interfaith coalition and anger sparked by the Parkland, Fla. school shootings. But they started late and weren’t able to get a ballot title in time to run a signature-gathering campaign. They officially threw in the towel on Thursday.
Here’s a quick look at the measures still in the mix:
Grocery Tax Exemption: The grocery industry is behind a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit new taxes on the sale of groceries. It’s an attempt to wall the supermarket industry off from the threat of gross receipts taxes — such as the one organized labor unsuccessfully sought with Measure 97 in 2016.Initiative Petition 37 would also prevent sugary soda taxes of the kind that were implemented in several cities around the country and that health groups have talked about pursuing in Multnomah County.
Housing Bonds: The Oregon Legislature this year referred a measure to the ballot to allow more flexibility in using proceeds from government bonds to build and purchase affordable housing.
LIKELY HEADED TO BALLOT
Supermajority Tax Requirement: The Oregon Constitution requires a three-fifths vote of each house of the Legislature to raise taxes. This initiative, financed largely by the Oregon Association of Realtors, would require a similar supermajority for any legislation that increases the amount of revenue the state raises.
In recent years, the state Supreme Court has opened the door to requiring a simple majority for revenue increases that aren’t explicit hikes in tax rates. One good example: Democratic legislative leaders pushed through a bill with no Republican support that prevented Oregon adopting a federal business tax break for its own tax code.
Supporters of Initiative Petition 31 this week turned in 174,000 signatures, far more than the 117,578 needed.
Gov. Brown told OPB this weekend that she and her staff have been talking to business and labor groups in the hope of keeping some tax-related measures off the ballot.
Corporate Transparency: Organized labor is financing an initiative that would require publicly traded corporations doing business in Oregon to publicly reveal how much they pay in state taxes, as well as a wealth of other tax and financial data.
Backers hope the tax data would help build support for additional levies on major businesses, which they think aren’t carrying their fair share of the tax load. Business groups say the measure is punitive and will hurt the state’s business climate.
Katherine Driessen is a spokeswoman for Our Oregon, the union-backed organization spearheading the measure. She said the group has collected “well above 100,000” signatures but is continuing to build as much of a margin as possible.
Initiative Petition 25 needs 88,184 valid signatures to qualify.
Sanctuary State Repeal: Cynthia Kendoll, executive director of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, said that “our trajectory is promising” for qualifying the measure for the ballot. However, she declined to say how many signatures the group has collected so far.
Opponents are assembling their own coalition to fight the measure, which they portray as a part of a harsh crackdown on immigrants.
Initiative Petition 22 also needs 88,184 valid signatures.
Ban On Abortion Funding: Anti-abortion activists has been waging a grassroots effort to halt state funding for abortion since 2012. For the first time, they appear close to making the ballot.
Oregon Life United claimed on its website Thursday that it has so far collected 130,000 signatures for Initiative Petition 1. That’s more than the 117,578 needed for the proposed constitutional amendment, but even that might not be enough. Elections officials routinely strike thousands of signatures because they are duplicates or otherwise invalid.
Clean Energy Taxes: Climate change and minority activists have worked together on an initiative drive that would tax large retailers in Portland to raise money for clean energy projects.
Damon Motz-Storey, a spokesman for the Portland Clean Energy Fund, said the group has collected about 48,000 signatures, above the 34,156 required. But he said they are continuing to gather signatures in advance of the Friday, July 6 deadline.