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Editor's Note: Measure 97 and Phil Knight

The tax hike and Nike founder have more in common than you think.

Wow. Just wow. 

Is there a more appropriate response to the news about Phil Knight handing over $500 million to the University of Oregon?  Factoring in his donation to the Knight Cancer Institute, the Nike founder has given a mind-boggling $1 billion to Oregon universities in recent years.

One billion dollars. That’s one third the amount that will be raised annually by Measure 97, the controversial corporate tax hike.

The billion-dollar revenue generators (Knight and M97) aren't exactly peas in a pod. But they have more in common than you think.

Let's take a closer look.

Knight is a businessman-turned-philanthropist. The hundreds of millions of dollars he has contributed to higher ed over the years validates private sector approaches to economic growth: Support local businesses, give them room (and tax breaks) to grow, and their leaders will return the favor by investing in the community, with jobs, buildings, programs and much, much more.

Billionaire benefactors, of course, get to distribute their money however they wish. The beneficiaries of Knight's largesse are OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute and now the University of Oregon.

Not that a win for Oregon universities isn't a win for all Oregonians. Eventually.

Okay, now let's move to Measure 97, which in key ways is the identical opposite of Knight’s $500 million gift. 

Ballot measures are expressions of direct democracy. If the tax increase passes, the $3 billion will spring from the will of the people, not a lone rich guy. (Well, the will of the majority of people who vote, anyway.)

The beneficiaries of Measure 97 are citizens. Theoretically.

What else can we learn by juxtaposing Measure 97 and Phil Knight? That Oregon is still in many ways a company town: Niketown, to be precise.

Also, that key decision makers — legislators — are missing from the Oregon revenue policy picture.  

Representative democracy in Oregon is at a crossroads, as the state's elected senators and representatives have failed to craft solutions to Oregon's longstanding funding woes.

But nature abhors a vacuum. Apparently, we've found a way to fill the gap — via the billionaire and the ballot.

1 comment

  • Elisabeth Anderson
    Elisabeth Anderson Wednesday, 19 October 2016 12:27 Comment Link

    Measure 97 is not 'for the people' but a way of back-filling underfunded state pensions before the jig is up and the politicians who provided favors for votes and financial support from said unions will be blamed for the coming shortfall. Oh they say it won't go to pensions but indeed going into the General Fund freeing up other monies that could be allocated to the Ponzi scheme called PERS. Businesses like NIKE, good corporate citizens employing thousands and unlike so many loyal to our fair state will be punished for success, costs will be passed along to those who can least afford an increase, and assure the supporters of this ridiculous plan will remain in office if not in their job.

    After all we certainly can trust our wonderful state workers with billions of dollars right? Gee what about $225million WASTED on CoverOregon? What about the green energy schemes, solar panel companies that defrauded the taxpayers and what about the millions in gas taxes that went for bike paths instead of roads. Drive on NW 23rd lately? It's a Third World Experience you will not soon forget.

    Sadly it's easy to spend "OPM" opium or other people's money. The liberal do gooders voting for this job killing, budget bursting payback for corruption think they are sticking it to 'the man' you know those evil corporations like NIKE that produce jobs, products and support our health and education system.

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