On the ballot Jan. 26: Two state tax measures

On the ballot Jan. 26: Two state tax measures

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregonians will vote on two tax ballot measures Jan. 26.

The election will decide the fate of a $733 million dollar tax increase package passed by the state legislature last year.

Measure 66 raises taxes on household incomes over $125,000 for individuals and above $250,000 on a joint return.

Measure 67 raises taxes on some businesses, including raising the $10 dollar corporate minimum tax to $150. It also increases the business minimum tax and corporate profits tax.

The taxes from both measures will fund education, healthcare, public safety and other services.

Supporters say the new taxes are vital. Opponents say the taxes will cost jobs, which will hurt middle-class workers.

State Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, helped write the two tax measures. He says the recession forced the legislature to cut the state budget.

"If we don't pass these tax measures, we're going to increase the cuts," Barnhart said. "We're going to lay off teachers, police officers, prison guards, nurses and doctors and other people."

But not everyone agrees.

A commercial from the group "Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes" has been using comments by President Barack Obama in the campaign against the tax increases.

"The last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession," Obama says in a soundbite the group is using in commercials.

"Measure 67 includes a corporate minimum tax that can tax businesses who are not profitable up to $100,000," said Beth Slater with Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes. "For some businesses that's up to three salaries for employees that they won't be able to handle because they have to pay extra taxes."

The campaigns for and against the tax increases, which were already approved by the 2009 Oregon Legislature, are in full gear. 

But what are business people who would have to pay those new taxessaying?

"Measures 66 and 67 are a solution that won't work to a problem we don't have," said business owner and Eugene City Councilor Mike Clark. Clark believes the increase in taxes will cost jobs.

"If you're going to increase taxes on businesses, one of two things is going to happen," Clark said. "They're going to increase the amount of money they charge the customers, or they're going to have to lay people off and lose more jobs. We've already lost a lot of jobs."

Businessman Tim Berry disagrees.

"I feel like I know what builds jobs," Berry said.

He and his wife started a software company that has now grown to 45 employees in Eugene. He supports the two ballot measures.

"Jobs come from good business environments, and part of that is education," Berry said. "That builds entrepreneurship. That builds small business."

If Measures 66 and 67 pass, Berry's company will pay more taxes.

"This company is a lot more worried about maintaining the quality of the services in Oregon than about paying those extra taxes," he said.