Vancouver paper taunts Oregon tax vote

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The Vancouver newspaper — The Columbian Editorial
Oregon voters deliver two more reasons for businesses to move to Clark County

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Whatever government revenue might be generated by the passage of Measures 66 and 67 in Oregon on Tuesday, make no mistake that one result is simple and straightforward. It has allowed those who make decisions with taxpayer dollars to skate. Rather then solving the problem of paying too much out to everything — including salaries and benefits to Oregon state workers — legislators simply asked for, and received, more.

We hope Washington state is not next, but we suspect that all states — including ours — are in the reaching-deeper-into-our-pockets mood instead of getting their expenses under control.

In the meantime, we put out the welcome mat here in Clark County for Oregonians who want some relief. Our community has always been a great place to do business; as of Tuesday, it just got better. More than any immediate or statistical impact (we noticed no long line of northbound trucks moving companies here Wednesday morning), the benefits to Southwest Washington will evolve slowly and will be related to overall business climate. Even several days before the vote, a Saturday story by The Columbian’s Libby Tucker included this quote from Bart Phillips, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council in Vancouver: “(Tuesday’s election has) already had its impact whether or not it passes, just because the specter of it causes instability. It shows the legislature is willing to increase corporate taxes …”

What we’re talking about here is an overall message from voters and politicians to entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and small businesses: “We’re going to sock it to you good, and we’ve got the public employee unions’ voter base, plus the deep campaign-spending pockets of those same unions, to pull this off.” And then, legislators will not only skate on their responsibilities to rein in an extravagant system of public employee pay and benefits, they’ll skate on their duty to reform government overall.

Measure 67 does more than just increase the corporate minimum tax from $10 annually to a sliding scale starting at $150 for companies with less than $500,000 in sales, up to $100,000 for companies with $100 million or more in sales. It also enforces the ghastly provision of making the tax retroactive, extending back to Jan. 31, 2009. (CEO: “Oops! I guess last year wasn’t as profitable as I thought!) To which Clark County economic development officials respond: “C’mon over!”

As for Measure 66, it increases state income taxes for individuals making more than $125,000 per year or families making more than $250,000. If that sounds like a minor hit on the rich, be advised that most businesses are led by people making more than $125,000. Furthermore, many of those leaders live in Clark County, and they’re sick of having to pay state income tax in Oregon. Combine those dual insults, and it makes even more sense to move a business across the river.

Here’s one last offensive message that was imparted to Oregon businesses: “We’re even willing to launch this assault on companies during the worst business climate in seven decades.”

Again, no significant impact should be expected here in coming days. But long-term, as Phillips noted, “it becomes a more appealing factor for businesses already considering a move.”

Clark County’s economic environment has long been penalized by business elements in adjacent Oregon. Now it’s good to have a business boost here because of something that happened there.