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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Backers Of Measure 97 Push New Version Of Corporate Tax Hike

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

In the wake of last month's defeat of a proposed corporate tax increase, the union-funded group that sponsored the measure unveiled a new set of revenue-raising proposals Tuesday. But after Measure 97 went down big time in November, this proposal is rather different.

"You'll see some changes in the measure that reflect some of the things that we heard from voters,” Andrea Paluso said at a state capitol press conference on behalf of the group "A Better Oregon."

Among the changes is a lower tax rate on corporations than what Measure 97 proposed. And the tax would only affect businesses with more than $100 million in annual sales. Paluso said the problem with Measure 97 was the details, not the goal.

"What we heard loud and clear is that voters do want a solution to our budget crisis,” she said. “That we do believe corporations in Oregon should be paying more."

The proposal could come before lawmakers next year, though backers have not yet identified any legislative supporters.

Some elected officials who supported the tax initiative on November's ballot didn't immediately take a position on the new proposal. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Tina Kotek said Kotek was reviewing the details of the plan. Chris Pair, who serves as Press Secretary for Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, said the governor "agrees that Oregon needs stable and adequate revenue for essential services such as education and health care, and she looks forward to reviewing all legislative proposals that meet that standard."

The state's largest business group, Associated Oregon Industries, has also not taken a position on the new proposal. The group was a key part of the business coalition that worked to successfully defeat Measure 97. But Preston Mann, a spokesman for the Oregon House Republican caucus, blasted the union-funded group that sponsored the failed initiative.

"Even in the face of an overwhelming defeat, they still have the audacity to stand before Oregonians and demand massive new tax increases," Mann said.

Lawmakers will meet for a five-month legislative session starting in February and will have to patch up a budget gap that's currently around $1.8 billion.