Businesses back tax hike opponents

SALEM – Opponents of the Legislature’s tax hike raised $600,000 for their effort to force the issue to a statewide vote, and the leader of the drive says another $1 million may be raised for the coming campaign to persuade voters to reject the tax.

Last week, state elections officials said opponents had collected enough signatures to force a Feb. 3 election on the tax plan, which includes a temporary surcharge on personal income taxes and permanent increases in some business taxes.

A campaign finance report filed with the state Wednesday showed tax opponents raised $610,549 in total contributions and spent $576,451 on the successful signature-gathering effort to place the tax on the ballot.

The leader of the campaign, Russ Walker of Citizens for a Sound Economy, said those totals reflect the “tremendous amount of grassroots support our campaign has experienced.”

“We are now prepared for a $1 million campaign. We will spend as much as necessary” to defeat the tax on Feb. 3, Walker said.

He said the campaign received 1,464 individual donations of under $50 from people across Oregon.

At the same time, he conceded much of the start-up money for the campaign came from several Oregon business owners who have funded poli-tically conservative causes in the past.

Chipping in $55,100 each were Dick Wendt of Klamath Falls-based door and window manufacturer Jeld-Wen Inc., Aaron Jones of Seneca Sawmills in Eugene, Wes Lematta of Aurora-based Columbia Helicopters and Joan Austin of Newberg-based dental equipment manufacturer A-DEC, Walker said.

Another $27,550 came from Rob Freres of Freres Lumber Co., a timber company in Lyons, Walker said.

Walker said an additional $87,000 came in smaller donations from other individuals and from the Citizens for a Sound Economy’s main office in Washington, D.C., although Walker said that money was “raised in Oregon for Oregon projects.”

“Every cent that was spent on this campaign came from the state of Oregon,” he said.

Walker said the amounts and the identities of those givers would be disclosed in a subsequent filing with the state Dec. 29.

A spokesman for the campaign in support of the tax said Wednesday’s filing by the Taxpayer Defense Fund shows the anti-tax campaign is not a “grassroots” effort.

“This is big money from rich business guys and from Washington D.C.,” said Morgan Allen of the Yes on 30 campaign. “They don’t care whether our kids have a full school year or whether seniors have access to prescription drugs.”

The Legislature’s $800 million tax package was approved in August after lawmakers agreed revenue boosts were needed to protect schools and other programs hit by $1 billion in earlier cuts.

Opponents of the tax increase have countered that the tax is unnecessary and would hurt efforts to revive Oregon’s economy.

Wednesday’s campaign finance report showed several sizable donations of in-kind services to the anti-tax campaign.

For example, it got $68,000 in in-kind contributions from Don McIntire’s Taxpayer Association of Oregon, mostly in the form of petition mailings.

Businesswoman Goli Ameri, who’s running for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., chipped in $54,000, mostly for radio advertisements against the tax and efforts by her campaign to collect 10,000 of the petition signatures.

And Oregon Republican Chairman Kevin Mannix contributed $40,000 in the form of legal help from his law firm. Mannix has traveled the state extensively campaigning against the tax.