Campaign reports show unions backing tax hike

EUGENE (AP) – Opponents of an $800 million tax increase have collected more money than those who support it as the Feb. 3 election draws closer.

Public employee unions are financing most of the money to sell the tax increase to voters, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday with the state Elections Division.

On the opposing side, a Washington, D.C., group and several Oregon businesses lead the way in the campaign to defeat the tax package,

The reports covered campaign fund raising and spending through Dec. 18.

The Legislature approved the tax increase during its record-long session in Salem this year as it worked to balance the $11.5 billion state budget for 2003-05. But opponents of the increase collected the signatures needed to refer the legislation to voters.

The Taxpayer Defense Fund, the lead committee campaigning against the tax increase, has raised $667,000, most of it during the drive to collect signatures to place the tax package on the ballot.

Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy and its director, Russ Walker, led the campaign against the tax package, and its national organization, Citizens for a Sound Economy, has contributed $107,809 to that effort and the petition drive.

Other leading contributors to the campaign against the tax increase include Seneca Sawmill of Eugene, $75,100; A-dec of Newberg and Jeld-Wen of Klamath Falls, $55,100 each; and Goli Ameri for Congress, $54,000.

The campaign reports showed that Yes on 30: For Our Oregon, which supports the tax increase, has raised $101,000.

Its leading contributors are: the Oregon Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, $22,718; the Nurses United and Oregon Public Employees Union political action committees, $20,500 each; and the Oregon School Employees Association, $20,000.

More money is expected as the vote draws closer.

“A hundred-thousand dollars is a lot of money, but our members understand that the consequences of the failure of Measure 30 for education is something we don’t want to have,” said Tricia Smith, a lobbyist for OSEA, which represents about 20,000 educational assistants, secretaries, bus drivers and other school workers.

The tax package on the February ballot includes a three-year temporary income tax surcharge and tax increases for seniors, corporations and property owners. A yes vote lets the tax package take effect; a no vote blocks it.

Ballots will be mailed to voters beginning Jan. 16.