A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

The Nike session — and an idea

Written December 17th, 2012 by
The Capitol was decorated for Christmas on the day lawmakers met at the cal lof the governor to authorize development contracts as requested by Nike,

The Capitol was decorated for Christmas on the day lawmakers met at the call of the governor to authorize development contracts as requested by Nike,

So what was the real point of the one-day special session of the Oregon legislature last Friday? The lawmakers passed one bill with, by the way, the support of all the members representing parts of Linn County as well as Corvallis. But when you read the bill, the need for a special session to act on it is hard to see.

The bill — HB 4200 if you want to look it up — authorizes the governor to make a contract with companies that promise to spend $150 million on capital improvements and hire 500 additional employees. In return for the investment, the governor is authorized to promise that the company’s state income tax bill will be calculated based on the “single sales factor method.” That method bases the tax bill on income from sales only within Oregon. And it’s the method that the law provides for now.

The contracts authorized by the special session would promise that Oregon law will not change for companies that have such a contract. Fine. Nike, the Oregon-based apparel maker, reportedly wants the assurance that the tax method won’t change before launching an expansion. So it got the governor to call Oregon lawmakers into special session. But if Nike has the clout to do that — and it clearly does — then it also has the clout to prevent any change in tax law it does not like. And that would make a special session unnecessary. So perhaps the only point in calling the session was to demonstrate that in Oregon, Nike calls the shots.

There’s no question that the company is an important part of the Oregon economy, but mainly in the Beaverton area, where most of its design, sales, legal and information technology employees live and work. If Nike wanted to do something for Oregon other than demonstrate its political muscle, here’s a suggestion: Build a few manufacturing plants in places around the state where jobs are scarce, and bring some production capacity home from overseas. (hh)

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