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Measure 97 battle likely to rage on in Legislature

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Both sides look to next session after voters defeat the corporate sales tax measure Tuesday following a campaign that broke state political spending records

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Rebecca Tweed, head of the anti-Measure 97 campaign, said a large coalition of consumers and businesses helped defeat the corporate tax proposal.After voters defeated Measure 97 Tuesday, the battle over increasing taxes on corporations is likely to rage on in the Oregon Legislature in 2017.

Lawmakers plan to propose a more “reasonable” tax revenue proposal next session to offset a $1.4 billion revenue shortfall in the 2017-18 budget, said Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton.

“I think policy will be developed by lawmakers and interested parties at the next session,” said Rebecca Tweed, Defeat the Tax on Oregon Sales campaign coordinator. “Our coalition came together for the purpose of defeating this $6 billion tax on sales, and we’re thankful we were able to do that.”

Proponents of Measure 97 vowed to lobby lawmakers to make large corporations pay a larger share of Oregon’s tax revenue and protect investments in education and health care, which the measure was intended to support.

“We are going to keep fighting,” said Ben Unger, campaign manager for Yes on 97.

The campaign was scheduled to release details of their next steps at a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 9. Unger declined to comment Tuesday on whether the public employee union-backed Our Oregon would attempt another ballot measure in 2018.

Measure 97 failed Tuesday 58 percent to 41 percent. The measure would have levied a 2.5 percent tax on certain corporations’ Oregon sales exceeding $25 million per year.

A coalition of businesses raised a record-breaking $26.5 million to thwart the measure. Proponents raised about $17.7 million. The ballot measure was the most expensive in the state’s history.

“Voters didn’t buy claims that the $6 billion tax, based on business sales instead of profits, would not increase consumer costs,” Tweed said. “And they understood that the money raised could have been used any way legislators wanted to spend it.”

The opposition’s blast of advertising on television, radio and social media drove home projections by the nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office that consumers ultimately would pay for much of the measure in the form of higher prices. The office estimated that the typical family would pay about $600 more per year under Measure 97.

Unger said Tuesday his only regret during the campaign was that Yes on 97 failed to raise as much money as the opposition.

He said he believed his campaign’s message resonated with voters.

“We didn’t win this election this time, but we did win the debate,” Unger said. “Because of the work we did, no one is going to accept a proposed school cut or more expensive health care before asking instead of cuts, why not make corporations pay their fair share?”