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Measure making it harder to tweak taxes makes ballot

A possible state investigation into how signatures were gathered for IP 31 threatens to call its viability into question.

FILE PHOTO - A measure that would make it harder for the Legislature to make changes to tax law has qualified for November's ballot, but a possible state investigation into how signatures were gathered for IP 31 threatens to call its viability into question.SALEM — An initiative petition that would make it harder for the Legislature to tweak state taxes qualified for the November ballot Thursday.

Meanwhile, a possible state investigation into how signatures were gathered for the measure threatens to call the measure's viability into question.

Initiative Petition 31 would require certain tax measures to get a three-fifths majority, or "supermajority" vote in order to pass.

Supporters turned in 174,006 signatures, and 125,853 were deemed valid by the Secretary of State's Office.

The petition needed 88,184 signatures by July 6 to qualify for the November ballot.

Under the state's constitution, bills for "raising revenue" need a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber of the Legislature to pass.

IP 31 would expand the types of tax measures subject to that requirement, including changes to tax credits, exemptions and deductions.

Derrick DeGroot, a chief petitioner on the measure and the chair of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners, said Thursday that the measure was intended to make good on the will of Oregon voters, who voted in 1996 to change the state constitution to include the three-fifths requirement on bills for "raising revenue."

Since then, a debate has ensued over the definition of "raising revenue." The current official interpretation is that bills that change tax rates meet that criteria, while changes to who pays the tax or changes to tax expenditures, such as deductions, don't.

State Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, is suing the state in tax court in a challenge that involves the question of what "raising revenue" means.

Boquist objects to a bill passed in 2018 that disallowed Oregon taxpayers from taking a new federal deduction on their state taxes. The move allowed the state to keep about $244 million in revenues in the current budget that otherwise could have been lost due to the deduction.

As the ballot measure process moves forward, however, the Oregon Attorney General's Office is reviewing the Secretary of State's request to investigate the allegations against a firm paid to gather signatures in support of IP 31.

Our Oregon, a progressive political coalition, last Friday filed complaints with the Secretary of State's Office and the Bureau of Labor and Industries alleging improper labor and elections practices at the company, Ballot Access, LLC.

The owner of Ballot Access, Lee Vasche, denied the allegations in an interview with the EO/Pamplin Media Group Capital Bureau earlier this week. He casts the complaints as politically motivated.

DeGroot declined to comment on that matter, saying he did not know enough about the claims.