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Measure 85 drawing mixed reviews
>Would reallocate corporate tax kicker refunds to general fund for use in public educationThis November, Oregon voters will decide whether businesses continue to collect corporate tax kickers or public education gets the money.
Before each biennium, the governor must prepare an estimate of revenues expected to be received by the general fund. Current law requires and automatic kicker refund of corporate income and excise tax revenue when that revenue exceeds that estimate by 2 percent or more.
Measure 85, if approved, will instead allocate the money for additional k-12 funding.
The measure has drawn mixed reviews thus far. Proponents of the measure say it will provide schools more financial stability. The Oregon Education Association (OEA) said that during the past two decades, corporate kicker refunds have ranged from $18 million to $344 million.
“That could mean lower class sizes and restoring important school programs,” the organization stated on their website. “In tough economic times, we need to get our priorities straight. We need to protect children from further cuts to schools.”
The Oregon Business Association (OBA) is not convinced the kickers would provide schools much benefit.
“We’re not likely to have the corporate kicker actually kick for another year,” said Sarah Pope, OBA legislative director. “So for folks that think it is going to add back programs or reduce class sizes, it’s not — there’s no way. Even if it does kick, it’s such a small amount of money there is no way it will add significant programs back to schools.”
The OBA feels the ballot measure is poorly structured and will make the system more volatile. It requires schools to spend the kicker money the year they receive it, which Pope says creates higher highs and lower lows for public education.
Crook County School District Superintendent Duane Yecha did not provide a stance on the measure, but echoed some of the same concerns expressed by the OBA.
“The corporate kicker has only been triggered five times since the 1989-1991 biennium,” he said, “so it’s not a consistent source of revenue. So if it were the will of the people of Oregon to support a measure like this, to me, it would be best to place the money in a rainy day fund to used during times of economic downturn.”
Prineville business owner Scott Porfily supports the premise of giving up corporate kicker refunds to fund public education, and is willing to give them up for his two corporations, Owens Freight Lines and Western Heavy Haul.
“Our kicker refund hasn’t amounted to a helluva lot over the last few years,” he said. “From a financial impact, it won’t affect us a whole lot.”
However, he opposes Measure 85 because there is no way to assure that funds go to the schools.
According to an analysis compiled by the Citizens’ Initiative Review, whose panel publicly evaluates Oregon ballot measures, the state could potentially spend the kicker money on something else.
“The corporate kicker funds are not guaranteed to increase k-12 funding because of the Legislature’s discretionary spending of the general fund,” the panel stated. “The ballot measure earmarks the corporate kicker to fund k-12 education, but does not prevent the redirecting of current funding resources to other non-education budgets.
Porfily said he would support the measure if he knew for sure that the money went back to public education, but since it doesn’t, he feels the kicker refunds are best left in the hands of the corporations.
“They could expand their operations or hire another person,” he said.
Measure 85 will appear on Oregon ballots for the Nov. 6 general election. Ballots will be mailed out on Oct. 19.