The Oregon Constitution requires a three-fifths vote of both houses of the Legislature to increase taxes. Ballot Measure 104 would apply that requirement to any measure to reduce tax exemptions or credits or to enact fees, such as for fishing licenses. It’s a bad idea.
After voters approved the 60 percent supermajority requirement to enact “bills for raising revenue” in 1996, lawyers for the Legislature interpreted it to include measures modifying tax credits or exemptions. But the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that “raising revenue” was limited to bills that created a new tax or increased the rate of an existing one.
Measure 104 would redefine “raising revenue” to include any measure affecting exemptions or tax credits, and throws in fees as well, meaning any of those actions would require a three-fifths vote.
Tax credits are frequently used as an incentive to encourage businesses to act in certain ways — by investing in solar power, for example. But after the credit has achieved its purpose or has not worked as expected, it makes sense to repeal it. Measure 104 would let a minority of the Legislature protect corporate tax breaks that no longer serve the public. Adding fees to the mix would mean routine fee increases to cover rising costs to the state would be harder to enact.
In general, lawmakers should be allowed to do the public’s business without undue interference. If voters don’t like the decisions, they can elect different people to make them. We recommend a no vote on Measure 104.