Ballot Measure 103 can trace its roots to Measure 97, the gross receipts tax Oregonians rejected by about a two-to-one margin a couple of years ago. That 2016 measure would have resulted on a tax on groceries from the state’s largest supermarket chains. Measure 103 is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit taxing groceries going forward.
It should be approved. Food is an essential and should not be taxed.
Opponents of the measure, led by the Oregon Education Association and other public employee unions, say it’s poorly written, and, in the face of the sound defeat of Measure 97, unnecessary. They paint it as the baby of big business, which will be the chief beneficiary of any ban on a grocery tax. Too, it freezes the corporate minimum tax, a move that drives tax-and-spend progressives nuts.
While businesses would benefit under 103, so, too, would every Oregonian who buys food in a supermarket or family-owned grocery store in the state. Taxes also would be barred on food sold at farm stands and farmers markets and that purchased and given away by food banks. Taxes on groceries are also regressive and can hit the poor and the elderly the hardest.
Oregonians have a well-deserved mistrust of those who raise and spend their tax dollars these days. They’ve watched lawmakers scratch for new dollars even in the face of dramatically rising revenue. They watched Gov. Kate Brown back Measure 97 a couple of years ago. And they’ve seen a real unwillingness among the bulk of lawmakers to tackle the financial problems created by the unfunded liability in public employee pension funds.
If, as Measure 103’s opponents like to say, there’s no need for the measure because no one’s proposing a tax on food at the moment, then there’s surely no harm in approving it. And once approved, it will serve as a preventative barrier against grocery taxes in the future. Oregonians should vote yes on Measure 103.