The Path to 2018: The Grocery Initiative

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After the expensive defeat of Measure 97 during the 2016 election, some large grocery chains have proposed a new ballot initiative to ensure their exemption from any future corporate tax measures.

Yes! Keep Our Groceries Tax Free, or Initiative Petition 30, is aiming the 2018 election. If approved, the measure would add an amendment to Oregon Constitution preventing groceries from being taxed at every point of food sales – production, processing, wholesale, and retail – and would apply to licensed grocers, farm stands, farmer’s markets and food banks.

IP 30 is co-sponsored by Ron Brake and Syd Hannigan, both with a background in corporate grocery stores. Hannigan, who previously worked in the Safeway corporate office, now serves on the Board of Directors at the Oregon Food Bank. Brake owns two “Food 4 Less” grocery stores and is the owner of Marketing Concepts – an agency which has represented Kroger Companies, Fred Meyer, Costco Wholesale, Amazon, Safeway Stores, Bi-Mart, and other northwest retail locations.

Announcements of the initiative came last spring, as legislators debated the implementation of a corporate income tax that could close a budget gap created by PERS and other entitlements.

In a conversation with  X-Ray in the Morning’s Jefferson Smith, Brake defended the proposal.

“We have many people that have hunger issues in Oregon,” said Brake, “and the bottom line is, the legislature continues to come at us – the voters – to get more and more shots at taxing groceries.”

 

Corporate taxes have remained a contentious issue in Oregon, who currently holds the lowest corporate tax rate in the United States.

As recently as last year, voters overwhelmingly voted against Measure 97, a proposal that would remove the corporate gross sales tax and cap and increase taxes on C-corporations making more than $25 million dollars in gross sales.

Though defeated in the polls, this fight over corporate taxes was the most expensive in the state’s history. The “No on 97” campaign alone raised $28.13 million, with top donors from Albertsons, Safeway, Costco, and Kroger.

Katherine Driessen of Our Oregon said a grocery tax ban is truly “about padding the pockets of large, international grocery chains like Walmart that already receive billions in subsidies from Oregon taxpayers for their low-wage jobs.” Our Oregon was one of the organizations who supported Measure 97.

If the initiative gains the required 117,578 signatures, it would move to the Oregon ballot in 2018.

 

 

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– M