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Our Oregon, union withdraw tax-related initiative petitions

Measures would have made it easier for Legislature to pass tax increases as counter to rival that would make tax changes more difficult.

FILE PHOTO - Our Oregon and Oregon AFSCME have withdrawn initiative petitions that would have made it easier for the Legislature to raise taxes.SALEM — Sponsors are withdrawing two citizen initiative petitions that could have made it easier for the Legislature to pass tax-related measures.

The Oregon Constitution says that bills for "raising revenue" require a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber to pass.

Our Oregon, a progressive political coalition, and Oregon AFSCME filed two petitions last November.

One of them would have limited the three-fifths requirement to income tax increases, and the other would have repealed the three-fifths vote requirement.

The groups say they're withdrawing the petitions because a rival measure to make it harder to pass tax-related measures didn't poll well.

But the same poll, from FM3 research, shows that 54 percent of Oregonians want to keep current law, with three-fifths voting requirements for some taxes and fees.

The groups touted the poll showing that the rival measure, IP 31, which would require a three-fifths majority for any tax changes, received support from 30 percent of respondents.

Altogether, 50 percent indicated they'd definitely vote no on IP 31, probably would vote no, or were undecided but leaning no. Twenty percent said they were "undecided."

Joe Baessler, a chief petitioner on the withdrawn measures, said that the polls showed that Oregonians don't support what he called the "corporate obstructionism" of IP 31.

IP 31 would mandate a three-fifths vote on measures concerning tax credits, deductions and exemptions, not just tax increases.

"We filed our initiative petitions to counteract IP 31, but it's clear that Oregonians are already with us on this," Baessler said in a prepared statement. "We respect the ballot and Oregonians' time, and we can better serve the public by dedicating our resources to fighting more serious threats facing Oregon families and advancing those measures that move our state forward."

Jason Williams, the founder and director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon and one of the petitioners behind IP 31, told the EO/Pamplin Capital Bureau last month that the petition was gaining fresh support in the wake of a recent bill passed by the legislature.

The bill would disallow certain business owners from taking a new deduction in the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on their state taxes. They could still take it on their federal tax returns.

The bill was passed in the waning days of the most recent legislative session to blunt the effects of the federal tax overhaul on Oregon's revenues.

Williams said the petition is getting support from business owners who oppose that deduction legislation, which opponents say amounts to a tax increase.

Oregon Gov. Brown is expected to announce Friday whether she'll veto or sign that bill, Senate Bill 1528, into law.