Oregon Ballot Measure 103

29 Oct

There has been a lot of talk about the “Grocery Tax” or Ballot Measure 103.  The commercials against the measure started early, some of the first that I saw anyway.  Which in turn has created a lot of questions surrounding this measure.

  • There currently is no grocery tax, so why do we need protection from it?
  • Does this help any small businesses or just large corporations?
  • I heard that this protects even slaughter houses, is that true?
  • I have seen a few small restaurant owners are for this, why would that be?

All of these questions are cause for concern.  So let me help to clear up a few things and let you know why I am voting YES on Measure 103 on my ballot this year.

Even with steady and increasing current tax revenues the state continually feels it needs more money rather than efficiently managing a budget, like everyday Oregonians do.  It’s a head in the sand situation with eyes looking for external instead of internal fixes to problems such as PERS (just one example).  And how do you just keep getting more and more money?  Taxation.

It is not just raising taxes, it’s more about adding new taxes.  And these taxes aren’t just on profits, these are taxes on gross receipts.  That means that if you own a grocery store and you sold a gallon milk for $4.00, and you made only $1.00.  (Disclaimer I have no source for this margin assumption, this is used for an example only).  You would be taxes on the $4.00, not the amount of profit that you actually made.  These taxes are unfair and do cause real harm to business of all sizes.

With the “grocery store tax” the problem is that these taxes won’t be paid by the grocery store alone, they will be paid by the consumer who is buying the gallon of milk.

Which leads to my next point, food shouldn’t be taxed….period.  If the price of food goes up, I hope it’s going up because an increase in quality, a few more cents going to those who move and produce it to bolster our economy, not just to increase money in the general fund.

So back to the four questions I’ve been getting…

  • There currently is no grocery tax, so why do we need protection from it?Every year legislators are looking for more ways to increase revenue. This gross receipts tax is something that we have already fought hard against and won.  But the end doesn’t seem to be in sight.  This issue is continually brought to the table.  This measure gives us all the reassurance that our food won’t be taxed, won’t even be looked at as an option to be taxed.  I believe this is important as we move forward as a state to make those assurances known.
  • Does this help any small businesses or just large corporations?This helps everyone involved in the food system. It protects consumers from the rising costs of food due to increase in taxes at every stage from farm to fork.  That means that yes, some large corporations will benefit from this protection.  But it also means that small businesses will not have to fight these gross receipt taxes in the future as well.
  • I heard that this protects even slaughter houses, is that true?Yes this is true. It is written to protect those from farm to fork from unfair gross receipt taxes on food.  Putting aside the fact that gross receipt tax is unfair to begin with, it would be hard to say that these taxes if instituted wouldn’t be a double taxation, triple taxation or more.  Let’s say I grow one green bean and sell that green bean to a cannery.  I’m taxed on that green bean.  The cannery then canned the bean and is taxed on the can as it leaves their facility.  Then finally it hits the shelves of the grocery store and is bought by a consumer.  And that sale will be taxed as well.  I don’t see a situation where that can of green beans isn’t going to a cost a whole heck of a lot more.  And all that increase in cost, none of it goes to the farmer, the cannery, or the grocery store.  It would all end up as increased revenue for the state and a lot of money out of consumer’s pockets.
  • I have seen a few small restaurant owners are for this, why would that be?I believe that there are a certain number of businesses with models that more easily move the increase in tax liability to their customers. Many small restaurants for instance do work on tight margins, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the price of your latte or prime rib go right on up if a tax like this was imposed.

So really Measure 103 isn’t just about grocery stores.  It’s about protecting businesses small and large along the entire food chain, from farm to fork.  I understand that it is hard to run a state on a tight budget, I run a farm on a very tight budget every year and it can be very frustrating.  But it is still budgeting where you spend what you have and no more, and also don’t make promises that use up more than you have available.  Making money on consumers by taxing the very food that they need, the basic necessity that they require, is not fair.  If you agree then I urge you to speak with your vote this year and make it clear that we aren’t going to foot the bill with food taxes now, or ever.  Please vote YES on Measure 103.

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