Seven initiative campaigns vie for Oregon’s November ballot

Seven Oregon initiative campaigns aimed at the November 2012 ballot turned in final signatures July 6. The campaigns, which don’t have ballot measure numbers yet, are known by their initiative petition (IP) numbers.

  • END CORPORATE KICKER. IP 35, sponsored by the union-allied group Our Oregon, would amend the state Constitution to eliminate the corporate income tax “kicker,” and instruct the Legislature to spend those funds instead on K-12 education. The kicker, unique to Oregon, is a state income tax rebate that occurs whenever income tax revenues exceed projections by more than 2 percent.
  • ELIMINATE ESTATE TAX. IP 15, sponsored by former Oregon Republican Party chair Kevin Mannix, would phase out Oregon’s estate and inheritance taxes by 2016. Oregon’s estate tax applies only to estates worth more than $1 million, less than 3 percent of estates, but it raises about $100 million a year, revenues which are spent on schools, public safety, and social services. Our Oregon spokesperson Scott Moore says the proposal’s backers would likely sell it as a way to save small farms; but state law already exempts estates when they include natural resource businesses valued up to $7.5 million.
  • BAN SALMON GILLNETTING. IP 21 would prohibit commercial non-tribal fishing with gillnets in Oregon rivers.
  • ALLOW WOOD VILLAGE CASINO. A pair of measures, IP 36 and 38, would enable development of a casino at a former greyhound track in Wood Village, just east of Portland. IP 36 is a Constitutional amendment, while IP 38 is a statutory measure.
  • LEGALIZE MARIJUANA. Two other measures pertain to marijuana. IP 24 would amend the state Constitution to legalize the private personal use, possession and production of marijuana for adults 21 and over. IP 9, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, would regulate the cultivation and sale of cannabis to persons 21 and over via state stores, and use the proceeds to fund state programs, as well as drug abuse treatment. It would also help kick-start an agricultural hemp industry in Oregon and promote hemp as a source of fiber, food and biodiesel fuel.

The corporate kicker, the casino campaigns, and the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act expect some union support. The estate tax campaign, if it qualifies, would likely have union opposition.

The state’s three biggest public sector unions — AFSCME, SEIU, and Oregon Education Association — helped fund signature-gathering for the corporate kicker initiative. The campaign also has the endorsement so far of Northwest Oregon Labor Council, Portland and Eugene chapters of Jobs with Justice; and the Portland State chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

John Mohlis, president of Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, said building trades unions expect to back the casino measures once the developer signs a letter of understanding that it intends to hire a general contractor that will employ union labor. A similar pair of measures failed in 2010; this time, project backers have hired former Our Oregon executive director Kevin Looper to run the campaign.

As for the estate tax measure, Our Oregon spokesperson Moore said if it qualifies, plans to form a broad coalition to defeat it.

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act has the backing of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 555. “We recognize that a vibrant hemp and cannabis industry in Oregon will create thousands of family-wage, sustainable jobs across the entire state,” explained Local 555 President Dan Clay in a press statement.

The Oregon AFL-CIO — the state’s main federation of unions — will decide which measures it will endorse or oppose at the July 18 meeting of its Committee on Political Education.

The Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division will validate signatures and determine in the next 30 days if the petitions meet the threshold to qualify for the November 6 2012 ballot; statutory measures need  the signatures of 87,213 registered voters, and Constitutional amendments need 116,284.

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