Governor Kitzhaber has called a special session of the Oregon legislature to enact what he calls the Economic Impact Investment Act of 2012. It would give him the authority to directly negotiate with, and offer “tax certainty” to, any company promising to create at least 500 jobs and invest at least $150 million over five years in our state. Any future changes in Oregon’s business tax structure would not apply to such firms over the lifetime of their agreements.
The urgency of this proposal comes from the fact that Nike is looking to expand soon and is apparently being courted by other states. According to the Governor, if his proposal is rushed into law, Nike has agreed to expand here with a proposed $400 million investment and more than 2,000 jobs.
Unfortunately, the Governor made it clear that he would only approve such deals for companies that create a lot of relatively high wage jobs. He explicitly rejected the idea that a company offering 500 minimum wage jobs, for example, would be approved.
While it’s good to seek high wage jobs here, rejecting low wage jobs hurts those with little education and/or few skills. These are often the young and minorities. They have little reason to rejoice over the Governor’s new plan.
Granting Nike tax certainty is a good idea, but it would be an even better idea if all companies got the same certainty—big and small alike. That way, all Oregonians would stand to benefit.
Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.