TRIBUNE ILLUSTRATIONAn overwhelming majority of Oregon voters support a corporate sales tax measure on the November ballot, according to a new poll by icitizen, a nonpartisan survey firm.

It’s the second poll in less than a week to show Measure 97 with a big lead, but the icitizen survey included several follow-up questions, which indicate that voters’ opinions change when they learn more about arguments for how the gross receipts tax would work.

EO MEDIA GROUP“This suggests messaging about the effect on an Oregonian’s pocketbook can make for a tighter race in November, depending on either camp’s ability to market the measure in their favor,” said icitizen polling analyst Cynthia Villacis.

The measure, backed by a coalition of public employee unions, would levy a 2.5 percent tax on certain corporations’ Oregon annual sales exceeding $25 million.

The poll from Sept. 2 to 7 found that 59 percent of 610 respondents favor the tax and 21 percent oppose it. After voters heard arguments against the measure, that support dwindled to 40 percent while opposition spiked to 31 percent. The poll has a 4 percent margin of error.

For instance, 65 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to support the measure if they had to pay $600 per year in the form of higher prices and lost job growth resulting from the tax. That figure is based on a May estimate by the nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office.

Similarly, 59 percent of respondents were more likely to vote for the measure if the revenue were to fill a $2 billion annual gap in funding needed for quality education in the state. That figure comes from the nonpartisan Quality Education Commission.

When asked how the money should be spent, the most common response — from nearly a quarter of those polled — was education spending.

The icitizen poll mirrors another independent survey, this one by DHM Research from Sept. 1 to 6, which found 60 percent of respondents support Measure 97, while 30 percent opposes it.

"At 60 percent (support) in back-to-back polls, Oregonians are clear they want corporations to pay their fair share," said Katherine Driessen, a spokeswoman for Our Oregon, the nonprofit advocacy group backing the measure. "When we share with voters that large and out of state corporations pay little or no taxes, they're eager to hold them accountable. They support 97 because Oregon voters know great schools and quality care for our seniors makes Oregon strong."

So far, the campaigns for and against the measure have played out mostly on social media and in front of editorial boards and civic groups.

“Generally speaking, the numbers in the polls we’re seeing is consistent with polling we’ve seen since last fall,” said Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the Defeat the Tax on Oregon Sales. “The numbers haven’t changed much because there hasn’t been much robust campaign dialogue.”

McCormick said campaigning usually heats up after Labor Day. The opposition campaign plans to debut its first television ad sometime this month, he said.

The debate between the campaigns centers largely on who will pay for the tax. Opponents contend that consumers will pay for the majority of the cost of the tax, while supporters argue that many of the large corporations affected by the tax will absorb most of the extra cost into their national pricing scheme.

The icitizen poll also tested voters’ position on several other measures on the November ballot.

• Measure 94 removes the mandatory retirement of judges at age 75: 53 percent oppose, 33 percent favor, 14 percent undecided

• Measure 95 allows public universities to invest in equities: 29 percent favor, 24 percent oppose, 47 percent undecided

• Measure 96 devotes 1.5 percent of state lottery revenue to fund veteran services: 83 percent favor, 8 percent oppose, 9 percent undecided

Measure 98 devotes a portion of new state revenue to fund dropout prevention, career and college readiness programs in Oregon high schools: 64 percent favor, 19 percent oppose, 17 percent undecided

• Measure 99 designates $22 million in state lottery revenue for outdoor education for all fifth- and sixth-graders in Oregon: 69 percent favor, 19 percent oppose, 12 percent undecided

• Measure 100 prohibits the sale of products and parts of 12 types of endangered animals: 85 percent favor, 7 percent oppose, 8 percent undecided

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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