Oregon Governor Negotiating With Business Interests To Keep Tax Measures Off The Ballot

By Jeff Mapes (OPB)
Portland, Ore. June 30, 2018 10:32 p.m.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and her aides have been negotiating with business and labor interests in the hopes of keeping some tax-related measures off the ballot.

The governor confirmed on Saturday in an interview with OPB that she is working with the two divergent groups “about a number of issues, including initiatives that may or may not be on the ballot.”


However, business sources said her efforts haven’t borne fruit so far.

Related: Oregon Voters Could Decide To Make It Harder For Legislature To Raise Revenue

And sponsors of one initiative — which would require a three-fifths vote of the Legislature for all tax and fee increases — reportedly filed paperwork with the secretary of state to finalize their submission of petition signatures.

That means it could no longer be withdrawn by sponsors.

Much of the discussion has centered around a measure sponsored by the public employee unions that would require publicly held corporations to reveal additional information about how much they pay in various kinds of taxes and what credits they’ve used.

According to one business source, Brown was discussing whether the unions would agree to withdraw their corporate transparency measure in exchange for the sponsors of the three-fifths measure pulling theirs back. There was also discussion about legislators holding a special session to refer to voters a narrower version of the three-fifths measure, but that didn’t come to fruition.

Brown refused to provide any details of the negotiation but said that “we’re going to continue to have these conversations. I think we’re looking for an ‘Oregon Way’ path forward.”


According to sources, discussions are still continuing on whether the unions would agree to back off of the corporate transparency measure. Business interests point out that it doesn’t raise any revenue and that it gets in the way of the two sides working together on policy.

This isn’t the first time that a governor has tried to broker a deal to head off some ballot measures. In early 2014, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber convinced both union and business interests to back off on a flurry of proposed initiatives dealing with taxes, union dues and other issues.

Friday is the deadline for submitting initiative petitions, which doesn’t give long for negotiations.

“As a former secretary of state, I am well aware of the timeline,” said Brown, who was interviewed after she helped dedicate a new park in Portland’s Cully neighborhood.

Several of the state’s major corporations — including Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Intel — have argued that the corporate transparency measure requires public disclosures that could leave them at a disadvantage with competitors.

Related: As Grocers Seek Shelter From New Oregon Taxes, Opponents Warn Of Chaos

According to one source, the companies have told Brown that this measure could affect corporate investment in the state.

The three-fifths vote measure — dubbed the “Tax is a Tax” initiative — comes from a different segment of the business community.

The major financial backer is the Oregon Association of Realtors, which has contributed about $800,000 of the $1 million raised so far for the measure.

Backers of the measure wanted to finalize their petition a week ahead of the deadline so they could appear on the ballot next to another measure that has already qualified that would prohibit new taxes on sales of groceries.

Their thinking is that the grocery initiative will be the first one on the ballot and it will be popular, thereby putting voters more in a mood to vote yes on the next measure.