City Club of Eugene: Ballot Measure 97

Oct 3, 2016

Recorded on: September 30, 2016

Air Date: October 3, 2016

With Oregon facing a $1.4 billion revenue shortfall in the next two-year budget cycle, voters are scrutinizing Measure 97 as a possible way to increase income. Measure 97 would require C corporations doing more than $25 million of business in Oregon to start paying a 2.5% tax on those sales.

Measure 97 advocates have promised that the tax will create dedicated funding for Oregonians’ priorities: education, health care, and senior services. They argue that Oregon’s state and local taxes on businesses are the lowest in the nation. Since Measure 5 capped taxes a quarter century ago, the legislature has not found a way to balance the budget while meeting critical needs. Measure 97 opponents refute this argument, saying that the proposed tax is regressive and will place an unacceptable burden on lower income families. Further, opponents argue the income could be diverted to make up for shortfalls in PERS, the state pension fund, or other spending needs, determined by the Legislature at a future date.

Does Measure 97 reverse the shift in funding public structures by taxing the in-state sales of large corporations, or does it merely pass the costs on to consumers, some of whom can little afford increases? Can the money collected be spent by the state for any needs they deem necessary, or will the funds be permanently restricted to education, health care, and senior services? Paul Nicholson and Chuck Sheketoff will unpack the claims made for and against this measure.

Paul Nicholson will argue against this measure. He earned a BA at the University of Michigan and an MA at Penn State University. He has served on numerous boards, commissions, and on Eugene City Council (1990-1995). He taught at Penn State and the University of Illinois, among other occupations. To win a $5 bet, Paul became a bicycle retailer in 1979, while still a graduate student in Urbana, IL. About five years later, he moved to Eugene and eventually opened another bike shop. In 2000, Paul founded Unique Eugene, an organization promoting local businesses. He retired as President of Bicycle Way of Life Inc., a Eugene-based business, in 2016. Paul has long participated in public policy discussions to champion better accountability for the expenditure of public dollars.

Chuck Sheketoff will speak in support of the measure. Chuck is a founder of the Oregon Center for Public Policy ( The Center opened its doors in September 1997 after Chuck received a “public interest pioneer award” from the Stern Family Fund. The Center – which has the tagline “Because facts matter” – does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve public policy decision-making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians. The Oregon Center for Public Policy provides timely, credible, and accessible information about fiscal and economic policy and its impact on low- and moderate-income for Oregon’s advocates, policy makers, community leaders, and the media. Chuck is a 1988 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law and a 1977 graduate of the University of Vermont.

copyright, KLCC 2016