Oregon to vote on 2 tax measures

On Jan. 26, Oregon voters will decide whether they're willing to pay more taxes to cover a budget shortfall, or if they want the state to tighten its budget belt.

The Legislature passed a bill in 2009 raising the income tax for people earning more than $125,000 and another raising the minimum tax on corporations. But opponents gathered more than twice the number of signatures needed to send those two questions to voters, elections officials said.

Don Hamilton, a spokesman for the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, said voters will see two referendums on the ballots that were mailed Friday.

Measure 66 raises the tax on income above $125,000 for individuals and $250,000 for households by 1.8 percent. Amounts earned above $500,000 would be subject to a 2 percent increase.

The tax on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits received in 2009 would be eliminated.

Measure 67 would establish a $150 minimum tax for most businesses. Businesses earning more than $500,000 in Oregon revenues would pay a 0.1 percent minimum tax, and the tax paid on some profits would go up 1.3 percent.

If passed, Measure 66 is expected to bring in $472 million for the 2009-11 budget, while Measure 67 is expected to bring in $255 million. Both taxes would go toward education, health care, public safety and other services.

Supporters of the taxes have argued they're necessary to keep those services from being cut. The Legislature relied on the two tax bills to balance the state's two-year budget. If voters say no, then lawmakers will have to look at more cuts when they meet for a special session in February.

Opponents of the two tax measures argue they will hurt small businesses and farms and damage Oregon's recovery from the recession.

The measure is supported largely by education associations, health care associations and unions. Some small-business owners also submitted statements in favor of the two measures to the secretary of state.

Opponents are mostly business organizations representing various industries and farm groups. A number of individual business owners and chambers of commerce also oppose the measure.

Ballots are due by 8 p.m. the day of the election.

In Umatilla County, ballots can be dropped off at the courthouse, room 18, 216 S.E. Fourth St., Pendleton, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, or 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. election day.

Drop boxes are open 24 hours at the corner of Southeast Dorion Avenue and Southeast Fifth Street in Pendleton, 180 N.E. Second St. in Hermiston, and at city hall, 722 S. Main St., Milton-Freewater.

For more information about the ballot measures, see the online voters' guide at os.state.or.us/elections.