UO BOT member and state representative call for “Yes on Measure 97” during panel

Oregon House of Representatives member Phil Barnhart and Board of Trustees member Kurt Wilcox spoke, alongside “Vote Yes on 97” organizers, in an attempt to persuade students and faculty to vote “yes” on Measure 97 Monday evening. 

Measure 97 will set a 2.5 percent tax on corporations earning more than $25 million in sales if it passes next month. Revenue from the measure — which is projected to be around $3 billion — would then be put towards funding education, health care, and senior services.

Although Wilcox is a Board of Trustees member; he voiced individual concerns. He said that if Measure 97 doesn’t pass, the University of Oregon will face major issues, citing the increase in retirement funds (PERS), which will cost the university $18 million dollars in the next three years.

“If we are going to pay for those costs, we are going to have to make significant cuts. We are going to have to raise tuition by double digits,” said Wilcox, “unless we pass ballot Measure 97.”

It is estimated that in 2016, UO will only receive 7 percent of its funds from the state — the rest coming from tuition and donations. It is unknown, until after the Nov. 8 election, whether Measure 97 will lead to more state funding for the university. Measure 97 explicitly states that the revenue it will raise from taxing corporations will go towards K-12 education, and specific allocations are unclear. 

Despite this language, Barnhart views Measure 97 as a chance for UO to get more funding, while alternative methods could lead to budget cuts.

Barnhart said that the Oregon legislature’s decision in 1990 to pass Measure 5 — which reduced property taxes — supports his idea. The measure caused cities such as Eugene, which had been locally funded by property taxes, to instead be funded primarily by state income taxes. Barnhart said this caused UO, which now has to share its funding from state taxes, to cut programs.

In 1994, the state funded 21 percent of the university’s budget, which gradually decreased until the 2008 Great Recession caused state funding to slump further. State funding dropped to an 8-year low in 2010-11 when the university received only $2,873 per fundable student ($1,825 less than in 2008-09.)

Resistance to the measure is bolstered by research from the Legislative Revenue Office, which stated two-thirds of Measure 97’s revenue will be paid for by Oregon consumers due to higher prices.

Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation President Kadie Manion responded that 82 percent of companies that will be taxed by Measure 97 are based out-of-state. She also mentioned findings from advocacy groups that compared the prices of well-known retail chains in Oregon and Alaska — the former having the lowest corporate taxes and latter with the highest — to find that prices were the same.  

In the weeks leading up to the November election, the Vote Yes on 97 campaign is teaming up with United Academics and SEIU — the faculty and classified unions — in phone-banking and going door-to-door attempting to register voters and urging them to vote for the measure.                                                                                         

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Andrew Field

Andrew Field

Former Japan Times intern. Daily Emerald reporter and FishDuck editor. Tokyo-Singapore-Houston-Eugene, but Oregonian forever. West Ham United and Portland Timbers fan.

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