People’s rebate measure, a lousy gift from California

By William MacKenzie

It wasn’t Oregonians who financed the campaign for the ill-advised Measure 110.

Out-of-state money financed the 2020 campaign for the measure that rashly decriminalized drug possession in the state. Of the nearly $6 million in cash and in-kind contributions received by the ballot measure committees, the New York City-based Drug Policy Alliance contributed over $5 million, one-third of its total revenue in 2020 according to its filing with the IRS.

Out-of-state money is also behind Initiative Petition 17, a 2024 ballot measure in support of a universal basic income (UBI) that would feature a $750 payment to every Oregonian, regardless of their income, every year, paid for by an increase in the minimum tax rate for high earning Oregon businesses.

The measure, called the Oregon People’s Rebate, would increase the tax on corporations making more than $25 million a year in revenue (not profit) in Oregon, increasing their minimum tax rate from less than 1% to 3%. According to the measure’s backers, the increase would generate about $3 billion a year. Oregon’s current population is 4,237,256. A $750 payment to each resident would total $3,177,942,000

“So your favorite local business won’t feel a thing,…other than every single one of their local customers, and employees, having an extra $750,” the backers say. “It’s that simple”.

‘Fact: The largest corporations pay less than 1% in Oregon tax,” the Oregon People’s website asserts. “We all pay between 5-10% in Oregon tax. Is that right? No! So we start to fix that.”

Oregon People’s Rebate was formed in Sept. 2022. It has received $425,696.50 in contributions to date in 2024, according to the Oregon Secretary of State.

Following a long tradition Hollywood and Silicon Valley political activism, the biggest 2024 contributors are affiliated with investor and universal basic income proselytizer, Josh Jones of Los Angeles, CA. An early adopter of cryptocurrency, Jones says on his LinkedIn site, “I’m a programmer/entrepreneur/investor/retiree who likes Universal Basic Income, National Popular Vote, Groo the Wanderer, (aerial) Gondolas, basketball, lunch, programming, the internet, robots, space, movies, and starting up stuff!”

Jones Holding LLC, a corporation based in Los Angeles, has donated $425,000 in 2024 and Jones Parking Inc. has contributed nearly $95,000. The next largest 2024 contributors are the foundation (Gerald Huff Fund for Humanity) and the mother of Gerald Huff, a former software engineer from California who was an ardent proponent of Universal Basic Income before  he died in 2018. They have contributed a total of $90,000.

Calling the initiative a rebate is, of course, the first deception. Corporate taxes would cover the cost and the recipients of the largesse would be everyday Oregonians.

The assertion that Oregon corporations pay less than 1% in Oregon tax is dubious as well. According to the Tax Foundation,  Oregon C corporations face a 7.6 percent corporate income tax and a 0.57 percent gross receipts tax, and if they’re in the Portland area, they are subject to a 2.6 percent business license tax, a 2 percent business income tax, a 1 percent Supportive Housing Services Tax, and a 1 percent Clean Energy Surcharge, all of which are additional taxes on net income.

The $750 payment might sound good,” the Tax Foundation says, “but if it raises the cost of goods, drives jobs and economic activity out of state, and puts Oregon-based businesses at a massive disadvantage with their out-of-state competitors, it’s likely to be an awful deal for Oregonians.”

Universal Basic Income is also far from a proven concept in addressing society’s ills.

“A UBI looks alluringly simple on the surface, since it provides cash unconditionally and with no targeting involved,” says a recent study by the staff of The World Bank.” But its implications are complex and largely unknown…It may affect, for instance, several labor market issues such as unemployment insurance, severance pay, unionization, contributory pensions, and minimum wages.”

“…hopes around a UBI as a societal revolution may be tempered by prosaic forces. After all, the ultimate generators of inequities may lie elsewhere, for example, in uneven access to education and health systems, low-paying and low-productivity jobs, poorly functioning markets, corruption, regressive tax codes, unequal pay, and social discrimination, among others.”

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote a scathing critique of West Coast ideologues driving social policy. “…my take is that the West Coast’s central problem is not so much that it’s unserious as that it’s infected with an ideological purity that is focused more on intentions than on oversight and outcomes,” he wrote. It shows “indifference to the laws of economics.”

Oregonians would be wise to firmly reject the ham-fisted efforts of wealthy Californians to mess with our economy.