Editorial: Democrats stack the deck against ballot measure


Business groups have made it clear they don’t like House Bill 3427, a hidden sales tax, and want to put it a vote of the people. Worried that a vote could spell trouble for the $1 billion a year revenue generator, legislative Democrats got busy this week stacking the deck against the ballot effort.

Senate Bill 116 as amended would force a statewide election on the tax on Jan. 21, 2020, instead of in November 2020. And a committee dominated by Democrats will write both the bill’s title and the explanation for what it does.

It’s all perfectly legal, of course, but that doesn’t make it right.

Lawmakers know voters have opposed sales taxes. That’s what HB 3427 is.

Businesses would pay a tax on .57% on sales inside Oregon above $1 million. It exempts groceries, gas and some medical costs. Businesses do get to deduct some — 35% — of their labor and capital costs.

Voters already said no to a very similar tax in 2016. The problems with the new tax are very much the same. Businesses can be forced to pay the tax even if they are not profitable. And it’s a stealth tax. It doesn’t show up when you buy something. That’s not a fair way to tax people.

To cripple the effort to overturn the tax, Democrats got busy changing the rules. They shortened the timeline for the tax to hit the ballot, making signature gathering more challenging.

Normally, a balanced committee is formed for a ballot measure to write the ballot title and explanatory statements. Democrats changed those rules for this likely vote, too. SB 116 has a Democrat-dominated panel of lawmakers write both the ballot title and explanation of what this bill does.

All in all, the Legislature’s Democrats want the new tax. They want big bucks for schools. And instead of a fair, straightforward tax, they purposefully designed one that is hidden. They think so little of voters that voters can’t be trusted to easily see what their government is doing. They must also think voters will not see the merits of the tax if it comes to ballot, so they need to stack the deck in its favor.

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