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Union-Backed Oregon Group Once Again Aiming A Ballot Initiative At Corporations


A union-backed Oregon group that lost its high-stakes battle to sharply raise corporate taxes in 2016 is now planning to put a much more modest measure before the state’s voters in November.

Our Oregon says it has launched a widespread petition as it seeks to qualify an initiative that would require publicly funded corporations to reveal how much they’ve paid in state taxes.

The so-called “corporate transparency” measure would also require these companies to provide a wealth of other financial data, including what tax credits they’ve taken and how much they have in Oregon sales.

Our Oregon’s political committee reported spending $180,000 on petitioning costs. This committee recently received a $150,000 contribution from Service Employees International Union Local 503.  That’s Oregon’s largest state government union and one of the major supporters of Our Oregon.

Katherine Driessen, communications director for Our Oregon, said the new measure is aimed at building support for future corporate tax efforts.

“We are missing a vital piece of information,” she said, “and it has allowed, quite honestly, some of these big corporations to come in and sort of control the dialogue without us being able to hold them accountable.”

Our Oregon orchestrated the 2016 campaign to raise corporate taxes by $3 billion a year.  The group spent about $20 million for its campaign.  But the business community spent about $28 million and walked away with an 18-point victory.

Portland consultant Pat McCormick, who has worked with business interests to oppose the new measure, said it potentially exposes “a lot of corporate information that is proprietary and shouldn’t be out in the public arena.”

McCormick said that state tax officials already have the ability to look at individual corporate filings when studying what changes to make to the system.

Driessen said the initiative attempts to deal with the privacy concerns of corporations by only requiring them to release information that is three years old.  And she said it was important for the public to have a more detailed look at how much corporations pay in state taxes.

Our Oregon and its backers earlier floated several ideas for once again asking voters to approve higher corporate taxes this year.  But they backed away from another direct fight over taxes.

Petitioners needs to gather about 88,000 signatures by July 6 to qualify for November ballot.

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