Business stance on four ballot measures

By  J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries

As of today, there will be seven initiative ballot measures that have qualified for the November 2012 ballot. Although signatures have not yet been fully verified by the Secretary of State, the AOI Executive Committee analyzed each of the measures and adopted the following positions.

Marijuana Legalization

This measure allows personal marijuana cultivation and use without a license. It sets up a commission to regulate the cultivation and sale of commercial marijuana. The new commission is directed to sell marijuana at cost to pharmacies for medical research, and to adults for profit through state-licensed stores. Ninety percent of net proceeds of marijuana sales are slated to go to the state’s general fund. The commission regulates use and sets prices.

AOI Position: AOI will oppose this measure. The Oregon Supreme Court has already made it clear that Oregon has no ability to supersede federal law, which classifies marijuana as an illegal controlled substance. AOI believes this measure would compromise a recent Oregon Supreme Court decision that affirms an employer’s right to disallow medical marijuana in the workplace.

Corporate Kicker Directed to K-12 Education

Current law requires an automatic “kicker” tax credit refund to C corporation taxpayers when corporate income and excise tax revenue exceeds estimated collections by 2% or more. This measure disallows C corporations from receiving this tax credit in the future, and instead allocates these monies to the state General Fund to provide additional funding for K through 12 public education.

AOI Position: AOI will not support this measure. AOI supports use of kicker monies to fund the state’s rainy day fund, not to unsustainably boost general fund revenues. This measure does not increase or help K-12 funding at all since it allows the legislature to simply re-direct current K-12 resources to any other government program it wishes. The net effect of the measure is that it singles out one group of taxpayers – C corporations (which were just saddled with higher taxes under Measure 67) – to add more money to the general fund.

Prohibition on Real Estate Transfer Taxes

Current law prohibits local government from levying real estate transfer taxes. However, the legislature has the authority to authorize and impose these taxes. Several attempts have been made by the legislature to do so over the past 20 years. This measure prohibits the state legislature from enacting taxes on home sales.

AOI Position: AOI supports this measure. Adding the cost of a sales tax to the price of a home would preclude many Oregonians from being able to buy a home and would deal a blow to a vital industry that is still struggling to regain its footing in Oregon.

Repeal of Oregon’s Estate Tax

Current state law imposes a one-time tax on estate of decedent if estate’s gross value is at least $1 million. This tax is commonly known as the “death tax.” This measure phases out the estate tax and tax on property transfers between family members and prohibits estate taxes altogether by January 1, 2016. The state of Oregon currently collects around $90 million per biennium in estate taxes. Oregon is one of 20 states – and one of three states west of the Mississippi River – which still imposes a death tax.

AOI Position: AOI supports the measure. Working Oregonians, particularly in small business, farming and forestry, pay taxes their whole lives while building their businesses and estates with after-tax dollars. Oregon’s estate tax is yet another tax bill – a double tax on these hardworking families – that can disrupt or break apart businesses by forcing them to liquidate portions of the business or sell land just to pay the tax. Studies have indicated a net job gain of 30,000 to 40,000 by passing this measure. Most states have eliminated their “death tax” since 2001.

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