Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber called the Legislature into special session last week, asking that he be granted special powers to guarantee a measure of tax certainty to large businesses planning big expansions within the state.
Nike, the sportswear company, is one of two Fortune 500 companies in the state. It told Kitzhaber a few weeks back that it was planning a $150 million expansion to its Portland-area facilities that would produce 500 new positions at the company and thousands of construction-related jobs. But Nike is being courted by other states offering financial incentives for it to move its corporate headquarters.
It didn't ask for a tax cut, but it wants a multiyear guarantee that the state won't change the way it calculates its tax liability. The implication, never actually stated, was that if it didn't get the guarantee Nike would pack up and move to more friendly environs.
So after a day of hearings the Legislature spent another day hammering out the deal. The governor now has the power to grant big companies multiyear guarantees.
We think giving Nike what it wanted made sense. It's a big employer and a major benefactor to institutions within the state. Losing it and its employees would be a huge blow to the Oregon economy.
But farmers, ranchers and agri-business owners would all benefit from a similar amount of certainty in regards to the way taxes are calculated and levied.
Nike is a homegrown company that became a multinational corporation. It remained in Oregon by choice, but could just as easily move if it gets a better deal.
Agriculture, on the other hand, is a $5 billion business located in Oregon by necessity. Farmers, ranchers, along with every other business large and small, deserve similar tax certainty.