- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A coalition has decided to drop its push to allow grocery stores in Oregon to stock their shelves with liquor and instead shift its resources into blocking a massive corporate tax hike heading to voters in November.

The now-suspended ballot initiative marked the second time in two years that the Northwest Grocery Association, through the Oregonians for Competition campaign, had tried to derail the state’s monopoly on liquor sales through a ballot initiative.

The 2014 effort failed because supporters didn’t submit a final ballot draft in time.

Now, some of the association’s members are redirecting their efforts and finances into helping other business groups defeat Initiative Petition 28, a $2.5 billion annual tax hike on Oregon’s big corporations - the largest such increase in state history.

“The tax is especially negative for high-volume, low-margin businesses, which is exactly what grocers are and many in the food-supply chain are,” said Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the grocer coalition.

Public labor unions have already amassed 100,000-plus signatures for the tax measure, which would require big businesses with $25 million in sales to pay a minimum $30,000 tax, plus 2.5 percent on anything above that threshold.

Opponents say that would drive up costs and ultimately hit consumers.

A Better Oregon, the coalition behind the tax proposal, and its supporters say it ensures that big businesses pay their share for the betterment of the public.

“We will keep working to fund our schools, health care and senior services by asking large, out-of-state corporations to do their part,” said Katherine Driessen, a spokeswoman for the Initiative Petition 28 campaign.

McCormick said grocers will raise the liquor privatization discussion again within the next year.

For now, a coalition of small distilleries and alcohol distributors - dubbed Oregonians Against the Takeover - is glad the issue’s been tabled.

“Consistently, polls show that Oregonians support the current liquor market and believe privatization is a solution in search of a problem,” Ryan Frank, spokesman for the opposition campaign, said in a statement.

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