Expand the Nike deal to other businesses

Published Mar 29, 2013 at 05:00AM

A tax change like the one approved for Nike in the recent 2012 special legislative session shouldn’t be limited solely to one of the state’s largest manufacturers. The certainty that Nike got about taxes can be a critical piece of information in corporate decision-making.

Thus, Senate Bill 819 — sponsored by every Republican member of the Senate plus Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, and two members of the House of Representatives, including Jason Conger, R-Bend — makes sense. It would give every C corporation in Oregon doing business outside the state the right to negotiate a deal similar to the one granted Nike.

The definition of a C corporation is complicated, but in short, it’s one that under federal law is taxed separately from its owners.

What Nike sought — and got — from the Legislature in a one-day session last December allowed it to enter negotiations with the state to lock in the single-sales method of calculating its tax bill. Under that legislation, businesses investing $150 million and hiring 500 new workers could qualify for the same benefit.

Oregon calculates taxes based only on its sales within the state. Before it would commit to an expansion, Nike wanted certainty that Oregon would not change that tax method. Many states use three factors, including property values, payroll and sales.

The change Nike got didn’t reduce Nike’s taxes. It gave Nike a better idea of what it would pay in taxes in the future. And at the time the so-called Nike bill passed, some questioned why it did not apply to other corporations.

Senate Bill 819, does that, as Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, told us. It strips out the specific investment and job-creation requirements.

Still, we cannot imagine the governor and the director of the Department of Revenue have the time to negotiate with all of the nearly 32,000 C corporations that filed tax returns here in 2009, the last year for which statistics are available. Oregon needs more high-wage jobs. Oregon needs to offer incentives to those kinds of companies, because they do pay off. Lawmakers should set reasonable limits on businesses that can apply.

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