Keep Oregon’s largest corporations from selling us short

Oregon is a great place to own a business; that’s why we are home to over 400,000 businesses of all shapes and sizes, including some of the largest, most recognizable names in the world. More than just a place to build your distribution facility or establish a tax ID, Oregon is a place where families can take root and businesses can flourish while working in harmony with the community.

To continue producing future generations of CEOs and entrepreneurs, Oregon’s public schools must at least perform at a level consistent with the national average, but that’s not the case. In a state-by-state performance analysis, Oregon ranked 38th in overall performance and 39th in per-student spending. Hardly a coincidence, the study demonstrates a direct connection between student performance and school funding — an area our state has fallen behind in for years.

Enter Initiative Petition 28 (IP 28), which will increase the minimum tax for the largest and most profitable corporations — those with over $25 million in sales generated in Oregon. The added revenue is earmarked for services that meet the needs of my customers and our local economy: early childhood education, K-12 education, health care and services for the elderly.

To address the needs of small-business owners, the backbone of our economy, we must invest in the education of our future workforce. Without a well-educated applicant pool, companies like mine, operating on the cutting edge of the health and wellness field, are often forced to look outside of Oregon when recruiting.

Consistently ranking near the bottom of educational assessments year after year, our state repeatedly falls short of meeting the needs of students and business owners alike by failing to produce labor-ready graduates. Surely this talent crunch affects the likes of Nike and FLIR Systems, and it's time they chipped in to do something about it.

The wealthiest corporations are already known to exploit loopholes and manipulate the tax code. A study conducted by Citizens for Tax Justice found at least two dozen profitable Oregon-based corporations that paid no taxes at all during one of more of the years under review, and dozens more that paid less than their fair share. IP 28 would establish a new minimum tax, one that corporations will be held accountable to pay.

It’s easy for small business owners and individuals to get behind this — we already pay our taxes, and IP 28 won’t require us to pay any more. The tax would affect less than 1 percent of the businesses operating here in Oregon, most of whom pay far less than their fair share, and whose contributions to our community are long overdue.

By taking this step forward, we will level the playing field for 99 percent of Oregon businesses who contribute their fair share, while at the same time diminishing the unfair competitive advantage gained by big corporations that elaborately avoid keeping their end of the bargain.

Passing IP 28 will improve the quality of our children’s education and restore resources to local communities that have been lost to big companies’ gaming of our tax system. The measure is an investment in our collective future, our children’s future and our seniors.

Investing in the communities that your business serves is a no-brainer for small business owners, and its time our larger competitors got the memo.

By asking our most profitable corporations, many with sales exceeding $100 million, to pay their fair share, we can begin to address the black clouds that hang over our education and public health systems. If we don’t respond to the concerns of our residents, both young and old, our customer base will dwindle and our economy will suffer.

As the adage goes, “you get what you pay for,” but for too long we have allowed corporations to record massive profits without paying into the communities on which their success hinges. IP 28 will keep a larger percentage of corporate profits in the state where they are desperately needed.

Mark Kellenbeck is the co-owner of BrainJoy Neuro Wellness Center in Medford.

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