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TV Advertising Barrage Starts On Proposed Oregon Corporate Tax Hike

Both sides of the battle over a proposed corporate tax increase launched their multi-million dollar TV advertising battle Monday.

The fight over Measure 97 is expected to be this year's most expensive political campaign in Oregon.

Business-funded opponents of the tax have already raised nearly $10.9 million, according to disclosure reports. Supporters, funded by public employee unions, have reported raising just more than $2 million. But both also reportedly have commitments lined up for additional contributions.

The tax would raise an estimated $3 billion a year by levying a 2.5 percent tax on sales by corporations doing at least $25 million a year in Oregon.

Supporters of the tax said it will come out of the pockets of big corporations like Chevron and Comcast.

"Measure 97 forces corporations with over $25 million in sales to pay their fair share," the pro-97 ad said.

Opponents aired three ads that argue much of the tax will be passed on to consumers.

“Measure 97 would increase costs for food, gas, electricity, phones, insurance — even health care," said Lauren Johnson, the chief executive of an employee-owned grocery store in Bend, in one ad.

The two ads get to the heart of the debate over Measure 97. Supporters say companies tend to have the same prices around the country and that they will face price competition from firms in Oregon that won't have to pay the tax. Opponents say companies will either raise prices or make job cuts to remain profitable in Oregon.

Shamus Lynsky of the Oregon Consumer League backs Measure 97. He said the opposition advertising "would be more accurate if they had the CEOS of Wells Fargo or Comcast" since "they are the real opponents." Instead, the ads feature a doctor, a farmer and Johnson, the Bend grocery executive.

Pat McCormick, spokesman for the opposition campaign, said opponents lean on a report from the Legislative Revenue Office saying that much of the cost will be passed on to consumers. He said smaller businesses will be affected because they have to pay higher prices for their purchases.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.