A group of Oregon business leaders is partnering with the influential Oregon Education Association to fight two proposed ballot initiatives that could threaten state school aid—but only after the teachers’ union withdrew its own initiative that would have forced corporations to disclose certain tax-related information.
The 43,000-member OEA announced June 6 that it would stop trying to qualify its Oregon Corporate Accountability Act for the November ballot. In exchange, the Oregon Business Association will help the union oppose initiatives that would cut state revenue and place a cap on state spending.
“[The corporate-accountability proposal] was a wake-up call that it was time for them to step up to the plate and help education in Oregon, instead of saying public schools are the problem,” Larry Wolf, the president of the OEA, said of the business leaders.
If adopted, the plan would have required corporations in the state to publicize how much they paid in state taxes and the amount of their taxable incomes. Because of tax credits, deductions, and other credits, some companies pay just $10 a year in state income and property taxes.
The partnership with the OEA allows the Oregon Business Association to focus on defeating initiatives that would hurt the state, instead of fighting the corporate-accountability plan, said Lynn R. Lundquist, the president of the business group. “It’s better to put our dollars for the same cause instead of fighting each other,” he said.
The groups will focus on defeating two ballot initiatives backed by conservative organizations such as FreedomWorks, a national, 800,000-member Washington-based group chaired by former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, and the Taxpayer Association of Oregon.
One would limit state spending by capping it at the percentage of population growth, plus inflation. The other would give taxpayers the same deduction on their state personal-income taxes that they receive on their federal tax returns. That change would deplete state coffers by $156 million in the current biennium, and by $835 million in the 2008 and 2009 two-year budget cycle, according to Our Oregon, a Portland-based coalition of self-described progressive groups.
Both measures appear likely to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The OEA and the business group fear that passage of the proposed initiatives would reduce the amount of aid available to Oregon’s public schools.
A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2006 edition of Education Week