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Oregon Voters Could Require a Legislative Supermajority to Reduce or Eliminate Tax Breaks

by Countable | 10.29.18

What the Initiative Does

Measure 104 would amend the Oregon Constitution to include changes to tax exemptions, credits, and deductions that result in increased revenue under the definition of “raising revenue”.

Oregon’s Constitution requires a three-fifths vote by each chamber of the legislature to raise taxes, but a state Supreme Court ruling excluded bills to reduce tax exemptions or credits from that requirement. This initiative would extend the Constitution’s three-fifths vote requirement to bills reducing tax breaks that increase revenue to the state.

In Favor

Oregon voters already enacted a constitutional amendment requiring a three-fifths majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes, but politicians are circumventing it for tax credits & deductions. Measure 104 would bring an end to backdoor tax hikes.

Opposed

Measure 104 requires a supermajority vote by the Oregon legislature for all adjustments to tax credits, deductions, or exemptions that result in more tax revenue. That’d make it very difficult for lawmakers to fund public services.

In-Depth

In 1996, Oregon voters approved Measure 25 by a margin of 55-45 percent, which amended the state Constitution to require a three-fifths vote of each legislative chamber to raise taxes. A 2015 Oregon Supreme Court ruling excluded bills to eliminate or reduce tax breaks, like tax credits, exemptions, or deductions from the requirement. That prompted failed attempts by the legislature to eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction for some taxpayers and impose a carbon tax, and a successful modification of small businesses’ tax credits by simple majority.

A group known as the A Tax is a Tax Committee (aka Yes on 104 and End Easy Tax Hikes) is campaigning in favor of Measure 104 and its constitutional requirement of a supermajority for tax hikes:

“Over 20 years ago Oregon voters passed a constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority vote on all revenue raising legislation. In recent years, legislators and their lawyers found creative loopholes and made several attempts at raising taxes and eliminating exemptions, deductions, and credits without a supermajority vote. Dozens of bills were introduced in the past two legislative sessions that circumvented the three-fifths requirement. Many of these proposals would have impacted middle-class families and small businesses. Ballot Measure 104 ensures that any legislation that raises revenue requires a three-fifths majority vote. This includes fees or the elimination of tax exemptions, deductions or credits ― making it clear that Oregonians are fed up with politicians working behind closed doors to increase taxes.”

A group known as Defend Oregon is campaigning against Measure 104 and argues:

“Constitutional Amendment 104 is unnecessary and dangerous. It greatly increases partisan gridlock by expanding “super majority” requirements to pass Oregon legislation. It jeopardizes funding for schools, Medicaid, affordable housing and other essential services, while also making it nearly impossible to eliminate special interest perks and loopholes.”

Measure 104 made it on the Oregon ballot after 124,428 valid signatures from supporters, exceeding the required 117,578 signatures.


— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: iStock.com / mphillips007)

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