Freedom Foundation

Unions back off 2018 ballot measure push to make raising taxes easier

Last week, the Oregon chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the union-affiliated group Our Oregon withdrew a pair of prospective ballot measures that were designed to give the Legislature an easier time raising taxes.

Both union-backed initiatives took aim at the Oregon Constitution’s existing requirement that tax increases be passed by a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber. Initiative Petition (IP) 38 would have significantly limited the type of tax increases that require the three-fifths majority, while IP 39 sought to go a step further and remove the three-fifths requirement altogether.

AFSCME claimed the two groups withdrew the measures because they are no longer needed to “counteract” IP 31, an initiative aimed at strengthening and expanding the Legislature’s three-fifths majority requirement. Although IP 31 is currently still on the table, the union doesn’t believe it has necessary support from voters.

However, the decision to withdraw IP 38 and IP 39 comes at an interesting time.

Most notably, the initiatives were withdrawn just as Governor Kate Grown made the controversial decision to sign Senate Bill (SB) 1528, which disconnects Oregon from the federal tax breaks given to small businesses. Although Brown has also called a special legislative session reportedly aimed at easing the burden of her decision on some of those business, there’s no doubt that her decision to sign SB 1528 has upset the business community.

Such a climate would not bode well for the union-backed ballot measures.

It could, however, help initiatives like IP 31 gain support. In recent years – whether it’s the failed Measure 97 campaign in 2016 or Brown’s decision to prevent small business from taking advantage of federal tax breaks in 2018 – Oregon businesses have been constantly targeted by Gov. Brown’s administration and the government union agenda. And, as shown by the defeat of Measure 97, it seems they’re finally having some success at fighting back during ballot season.

At the end of the day, the unions’ withdrawal of IP 38 and IP 39 likely had less to do with an opposing ballot initiative more to do with Gov. Brown’s actions – and the lack of support the union-backed measures would face as a result.

After all, Oregonians are becoming increasingly aware that Gov. Brown’s political agenda and that of the government unions – among her most generous campaign donors – are simply one and the same.