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OR: Nike legislation moves forward, process frustrates opponents

By   /   December 14, 2012  /   No Comments

JUST DO IT: Nike wants assurances from the state of Oregon that its taxes are going to remain stable. (AP photo)

UPDATE: The Oregon legislature has passed legislation that gives tax certainty to Nike in exchange for an expansion in the state that could net thousands of jobs.

The House passed the bill 50 to 5 and the Senate 22 to 6.

Though he said it would have been better to expand the bill to all businesses, state Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, called the passage an acknowledgement by the state that Oregon businesses need assurances of tax certainty to thrive.

“Our Governor and a majority of Oregon’s Democratic and Republican Legislators have now endorsed the principle that Oregon should nurture its businesses, that Oregon businesses create our desperately needed jobs, and that further tax burdens on successful Oregon businesses will result in driving them to more tax-friendly states,” he said in a statement.

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

SALEM – One hours long committee meeting and 69 amendments later, the Nike legislation that has caused a flurry of frustration over what critics call “corporate welfare,” appears ready to pass muster with the Oregon legislature.

A special economic committee appointed to vet the legislation unanimously passed a revised version of the proposal and sent it to the House and Senate floors around 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Nike wants the Legislature pass a bill that ensures the corporate tax structure doesn’t change for the global company in exchange for its promise to expand here in Oregon. Nike is mostly interested in keeping Oregon’s Single Sales Factor tax, which means corporations who do business outside the state only pay corporate income taxes on the sales made inside Oregon.  The legislation gives the governor the authority to enter into tax-certainty agreements with companies creating 500 or more jobs and making a $150 million capital investment.

The modified legislation changed the maximum length of a tax certainty for these companies from 40 to 30 years and added a shorter sunset clause from 10 years to one. Republicans wanted to expand the bill to apply to all business, not just large companies such as Nike. But an amendment to that effect failed on party lines. Even so, Republicans spoke favorably of the modified legislation and the opportunity the Nike expansion brings. The company has said it plans to add 12,000 jobs by 2020.

“I think what we’ve done here today is responsible legislation where we’ve taken a critical issue and addressed it, fixed it, I think…. without trying to overwork this and broaden the scope of this,”  said state Sen. Chris Telfer, a lame duck who won’t be back for the next session that starts with organizational days in January.

In a public hearing before the legislation went to the full legislature, critics called the process undemocratic and implored lawmakers to delay. Members of Occupy Portland and Occupy Salem stood outside the capitol building protesting the Nike legislation with signs that read “Welcome to Nike Town and Just say No to Nike.”

State Rep. Jefferson Smith, D-Portland, introduced amendments to the legislation and said lawmakers had five areas of concern: the 10-year sunset clause, the up to 40 year contract deal, job quality, accountability and transparency.

Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org, or follow her on Twitter @ShelbySebens. For more Northwest Watchdog updates, visit NWWatchdog on Facebook and Twitter.

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