Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2010 8:00 AM
Bushue urges lawmakers to work with businesses to rebuild economy
By MITCH LIES
When Oregon Democratic lawmakers adopted tax increases on high earners and corporations last year along largely party lines, they said they believed the taxes would pass a statewide referendum.
Oregon voters on Jan. 26 confirmed that sentiment, approving Measure 66 and Measure 67 by comfortable margins.
Measure 66, which increases taxes on households with annual incomes above $250,000, passed by more than 7 percentage points. Measure 67, which increases corporate taxes, passed by just under 7 percentage points.
Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences Dean and Experiment Station Director Sonny Ramaswamy said he heaved a sigh of relief when he learned the measures passed.
The OSU Extension Service and Experiment Station rely on taxes for about 17 percent of their operating budget.
"I was sitting on pins and needles worried about the vote," Ramaswamy said. "We've already eliminated many positions and we were looking at a similar number if the measures failed.
"This gives us some relief," he said.
Scott Reed, director of OSU Extension Service, said extension is at a tipping point where further budget cuts would dramatically impair its ability to operate.
"It appears because of the passage of the ballot measures, that we will be able to maintain positions and to continue to serve Oregon's agricultural and natural resource needs," he said.
Opponents of the two measures said they fear the increases will cost Oregon jobs and slow the state's economic recovery.
"State agencies have their money and they better be spending it well," said Paulette Pyle of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, which worked to defeat the tax increases.
"This is it. There is no more," Pyle said. "If they have to come back in a couple of sessions and say we've got to do this again, they may find out they don't have the businesses here that have the ability to pay."
"I think what this does is lengthen the time it takes for Oregon to recover the jobs it lost (in the recession)," said Pat McCormick, spokesman for Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes. "This is a signal to investors and businesses that Oregon is an unfriendly place to locate."
"The biggest issue here," said Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue, "is the fact the Legislature by passing these bills has still not addressed the state of the economy.
"They've addressed their budget," Bushue said, "but they haven't addressed how to rebuild a failing economy. All they've done is alienate the very sector they should be reaching out to to help rebuild this economy."
Bushue said it is important for lawmakers and the business community to put aside their differences and try to work together in the legislative session that starts Feb. 1.
"I hope the business community leaves their doors open," he said. "And I hope (lawmakers) take this opportunity to at least try to work with the business community."