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PAMELA TREECEHave you ever tried to fix something without the correct tool? It could be trying to hammer a nail with a rubber mallet, using a butter knife instead of a screwdriver, or maybe knitting with a pair of needles that are not the size the pattern called for in the first place.


The end result at best is a mistake, or it could be a case of taking a bad situation and making it worse than the original problem you were trying to fix. This is what we face with ballot Measure 97 — the proposed tax on Oregon sales or gross receipts tax. It is simply the wrong tool for a complex problem.

By now, you should have done your due diligence and are becoming educated on Measure 97. As an Oregon voter, you’ve read or heard all of the notable arguments against the ballot measure. It is a regressive tax that will be passed onto the consumer; it has the possibility of tax pyramiding, where a product is taxed at each stage of the supply chain; it affects the competitiveness of Oregon’s business climate in giving the edge to those competitors outside the state who don’t pay such a tax; it will cost the Oregon economy 38,000 private sector jobs; its effect on businesses and the Oregon economy will be devastating.

Even Governor Brown has said that Oregonians are smart enough to realize that they will share in the cost if this measure passes. Measure 97 is being sold as an initiative that will generate more tax revenue for early childhood and K-12 education, healthcare and senior services — all of which is desperately needed. However, there is no guarantee this is where the money will go if the measure does pass. In a letter to State Representative John Davis, Oregon Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson said, “If Measure 97 becomes law, the Legislative Assembly may appropriate revenues generated by the measure in any way it chooses.”

It is apparent to me, especially in this case, the initiative process is not the right tool for determining good public policy. The initiative process created ballot Measure 97, and it is a bad solution, or the wrong tool, for solving a very complex problem. Measure 97 only gives the citizens of Oregon a single interest solution with no opportunity to discuss compromises or create better solutions to pay for social services. I am certain you will recognize the consequences Ballot Measure 97 will bring to our most vulnerable populations and vote “no.” Don’t settle for this regressive tax. We can do better.

It is no surprise to any of us that our state needs comprehensive tax reform. We need to find more effective ways to fund education and social services. To do that, we need leadership that brings all parties to the table. As citizens, it is not an unreasonable request of those we have elected to create an opportunity for compromise. State Senator Mark Hass should be commended for his work to try to bring key leaders together last Spring to talk about this issue, but unfortunately, he lacked the support and was not successful in furthering the conversation before this initiative made it onto the ballot.

We as Oregonians deserve a process that allows us to talk through solutions and not be pushed into just one that could have devastating consequences for all of us. We need a diversity of opinions that the initiative process does not afford us — a collaboration with the Governor, legislators, K-12 and higher education leaders, business leaders, public employee union and other trades leadership.

I encourage you to vote “no” on Measure 97. This problem belongs to all of us, and it is our responsibility to talk with our elected leaders, volunteer our time, and share our expertise; together let’s find a way to create a solution to adequately fund the State of Oregon that we can all support and be proud of.

We can do better. Vote “no” on Measure 97.


Pamela Treece is the executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance. Her column appears monthly, addressing issues that are critical to the economic health of the Westside. You can learn more about us at: westsidealliance.org

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