- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Major corporations in Oregon and from out of state, smaller local businesses and individual voters intently awaited the outcome on Tuesday of a state ballot measure that, if passed, would tax companies’ sales of more than $25 million.

Tens of millions of dollars were thrown into the battle over Measure 97 by both sides, with the “no” campaign largely funded by mostly out-of-state corporations.

Opponents and even the Legislative Revenue Office say every Oregonian will be affected.

Oregon is one of only five states in America that doesn’t have a sales tax. Opponents called Measure 97 a sales tax in disguise, saying companies that have to pay it will pass on the cost to their customers.

Consumers would not be directly taxed by the measure, which is expected to increase state revenue by $3 billion per year. Many businesses that have narrow profit margins feel threatened because sales would be taxed, not profits. The minimum tax for companies with more than $25 million in sales in Oregon would be 2.5 percent of the excess over $25 million, plus $30,001.

Many voters cited Measure 97 as the one to which they’re paying the most attention.

Allison Ellermeier, 41, dropped her ballot off at a drop box at Pioneer Courthouse Square and said she had voted against Measure 97 after agonizing over it. The realtor voted with her 6-month-old son strapped to her chest and a friend’s daughter in a stroller.

“I voted no and that’s a hard thing to say because I’m all for taxing all of us for schools and other social services but . after a lot of time and thought and reading, I just thought that this is not the way,” she said. “I’m very hopeful that something can be on the ballot the next go-around that can maybe address this in a better way.”

Another voter dropping off a ballot, 26-year-old Goldann Salazar, voted for Measure 97 and was so in favor of it that she helped campaign for its passage by knocking on doors.

“I know that there’s hesitation in terms of where the money goes, but I trust that the general fund is the best place for the money and I trust that our legislators will allocate the money to health care and to education and to the elderly, which is important to me,” said Salazar, who works as an office manager in city government.

The Legislative Revenue Office says the tax would wind up costing each Oregonian at least $600 a year.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said she supports the measure because the state budget is facing a $1.3 billion deficit, and the money is needed to help fund education, health care and senior services.

Republican challenger Bud Pierce said the measure would increase the cost of living for every Oregonian and that instead state government should learn to live within its means.

Even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in on it, saying in a statement last week that “at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, it is time for large profitable corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes. That is why I am supporting Oregon 97.”

Backers say the revenue will go to education, health and senior services, although it would land in the general fund, which the legislature can spend as it sees fit.


AP reporter Gillian Flaccus in Portland contributed to this report

Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/andrewselsky

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