The Oregonian – How Measure 97 Might Affect Oregon Businesses

By Jeff Manning – October 12, 2016

MORO, Ore. — Mile upon mile of golden stubble — the remains of this summer’s wheat harvest — surround this tiny town in the high plains of north-central Oregon. The soft white wheat grown by nearly 900 area farmers is the region’s economic engine.

That engine would soon sputter without Mid-Columbia Producers Co-op. After harvest, the co-op steps in as the key connection between local growers and the global marketplace. Mid-Columbia buys, stores and eventually sells the 12 million to 20 million bushels produced annually by its member growers.

This obscure and largely apolitical company finds itself near the center of the stormy debate over Measure 97, the initiative on this fall’s ballot that would dramatically overhaul Oregon’s tax structure and bring in a colossal $3 billion a year to state government.

Mid Columbia seed plant manager Greg Hohensee displays a handful of treated wheat seeds on Sept. 16, 2016. Unlike the co-op arm of the business, profits from the seed plan would be susceptible to Measure 97. (Amanda Peacher/OPB)

Chuck Sheketoff, a vocal critic of what he calls Oregon’s tax giveaways, points out that 40 years ago, businesses contributed 18.5 percent of the state’s total income tax collections. Individuals paid the rest. By 2015-17, businesses’ share was just 6.6 percent, a nearly two-thirds reduction.

Corporate Oregon’s declining contribution is due at least in part to what Portland investment adviser Bill Parish called “the explosion of accounting gimmicks and tax schemes” that corporations use to manipulate their bottom lines and dodge taxes.

“Measure 97 is a beautiful tax because by taxing gross sales above $25 million it ensures taxes will be collected,” Parish said.

Note: This story was based upon original research by Parish & Company.