Suzanne Roig
The Bulletin

Oregon voters are being asked to decide if lawmakers should be required to have a so-called supermajority of votes — or three-fifths majority — whenever they vote to change or repeal a tax break or increase or impose a fee.

Measure 104 would change the definition of “raising revenue” in the Oregon Constitution to include changes to tax exemptions, credits and deductions that result in increased revenue, as well as the creation or increase of taxes and fees, according to the ballot measure summary.

Because a supermajority is required to pass revenue-raising measure, if it pases, Measure 104 would expand the application of the supermajority requirement to include changes to tax deductions, credits and exemptions, and fees.

That would mean approval of any measure that increases fees such as hunting or fishing licenses, repeals tax credits or exemptions or raises taxes would require yes votes from 36 of the 60 members of the state House and 18 of 30 state senators. Typically, a simple majority is required for the passage of legislative measures except for tax increases.

“This is another unnecessary, risky ballot measure that enshrines the Constitution,” said Doug Moore, executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. “It’s incredibly limiting particularly in how we can respond to a crisis.”

Those who support the measure say it’s about accountability and keeping tax deductions for people who use them.

“This measure would force bipartisan support and lawmakers who work together,” said Paul Rainey, Yes on 104 spokesman. “This will close a loophole and ensure that Oregonians are protected from having taxes increased through the elimination of tax deductions and credits or other tricky ways the government tries to increase spending.”

Supporters include the Automobile Dealers Association of Portland, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, the Oregon Home Builders Association and the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Opponents of the measure include Defend Oregon, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Oregon Center for Public Policy and Nike. Gov. Kate Brown said she opposes the measure, as well.

Since 1996, Oregon voters have required a three-fifths majority on any legislation that raises revenue by raising taxes.

Democrats are one vote short in the Senate and in the House from a three-fifths super-majority, so they need Republican support to get the three-fifths majority.

“This measure promotes accountability and tax fairness by ensuring legislators work together to find bipartisan consensus when considering taxes on Oregon families,” said Jason Brandt, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Assocation CEO.

One example of a fee that passed without the three-fifths majority was HB 2060, a measure that fixed flawed tax exemptions granted during the 2013 special session to Oregon businesses that competed with out of state companies. The measure passed on a 31-28 vote and was supposed to raise $200 million by scaling back those tax breaks.

Supporters say Measure 104 is needed to preserve such tax credits as the mortgage interest deduction. Measure 104 proponents believe it would be onerous for Oregon families if that was eliminated as a way to raise revenues. Typically, tax credits, not exemptions or deductions, sunset automatically every six years, Brandt said.

Moore’s group, which works to protect the environment, believes the measure will hamstring the government from responding to issues.

“It’s a dangerous ballot measure,” Moore said. “It’s bad for the environment and bad for the state Oregon.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, . Bulletin reporter Gary Warner contributed to this report.