By Representative Rob Nosse
When I first ran for office to be the state representative for Southeast Portland in 2014, one of the things I ran on was progressive tax reform. It has been sorely needed since I moved here in 1992, two years after Property Tax Measure 5 was enacted. I endorsed Bernie Sanders in his primary for that reason as well. Because of our state’s $1.6 billion budgetary shortfall, his legislative session has presented us a rare opportunity – a fiscal crisis that illustrates and demands a long overdue solution to our tax structure and revenue problems.
To that, the beginning of May, leadership from my chamber in the House of Representatives introduced the Education Investment Initiative. We hope it will attract bipartisan support, and finally solve some of the structural issues with our underfunded education budget and in the way our state raises revenue, particularly from businesses
This initiative would generate $2 billion in revenue per biennium. 75% of that revenue would be dedicated to funding our public schools. With that revenue, we could hire more teachers to reduce class sizes, properly fund programs such as special education or English as a second language, add two more weeks of school, and improve our graduation rates. We could also fully fund Ballot Measure 98 – a measure that passed in the last election, but lacked a funding mechanism to pay for the additional career and technical education classes and educational support services it requires. The funds that are not dedicated to schools could help cover some of the cost of the Oregon Health Plan, services to the elderly and help get our child welfare system stabilized.
In addition to better funding for K-12 education, these funds could go to higher education as well. We know that the biggest barrier to entry for students seeking a college degree is the cost of tuition. This proposal also gives us an opportunity to invest in our universities and bring down the cost burden on students.
This initiative would generate new revenue with a new business tax. Here is how it would work:
If a company makes more than $5 million in sales, they will pay a 0.95% tax on all receipts/revenues above $5 million.
If a company makes less than $5 million in sales during the year, they will only be required to pay the state’s minimum corporate tax of $250, a $100 increase from our state’s current minimum tax.
Lastly, if a business makes $150,000 or less in sales during the year, they would pay nothing.
I like this proposal for a few reasons. First and foremost, this is a reliable source of revenue. It will not fluctuate with the ups and downs of the economy like our income tax does.
While not quite as robust as Measure 97 in terms of the amount of money it raises, it does generate needed revenues in a way that many businesses find more palatable. It also finally addresses the reality that business tax contributions to our state’s budget are the lowest in the nation.
Lastly, I believe this is a smart, balanced approach to raising revenue that will stave off further cuts to our schools and to the Oregon Health Plan.
As I stated in the beginning of this column, I moved to Oregon in 1992 after college. The entirety of my time in this state, the entirety of my two kids’ academic careers, I have seen nothing but budget cuts and constraints. I don’t want that educational experience for another generation of Oregonians.
Should this come to pass, Oregon will have a reliable, long-term solution to our money troubles for the first time in three decades. It’s a bold solution, but I believe we are facing a budgetary crisis that calls for bold action, and I plan to support this legislation, and all of the improvements to state programs, schools, and universities that would come with it. I hope voters in Southeast Portland will support it as well.