Oregon's hostage crisis: negotiations commence

Carla Axtman

Day one of the Oregon hostage crisis has ended. Negotiations have commenced. It would appear that our legislature is on a freight train to kiss Nike's ring. Yahoo.

First, a correction of sorts. When I began asking around about the cost of a special session, I was told $20-$40k as the estimate. But Jared Mason-Gere of the House Democrats leadership office tells me it's probably going to be around $13k, if the numbers are similar to 2010. We're a cheaper date than I thought.

Second, Intel is mighty pissed about the deal with Nike. Apparently the language in the bill would exclude them from the special tax category goody cart. Maybe they'll show up and lobby legislators in the corridors tomorrow. A good old fashioned donnybrook could be in the offing: Fight! Fight!

Third, Nike and the Governor's office made people told in advance of the deal sign a six-page nondisclosure agreement, and most legislators had no idea until Kitzhaber's announcement on Monday.

Finally, some of the Oregon House Democrats have begun to circulate a letter, looking to rein in this charade a bit. The letter was originally circulated by Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-Portland) and Alyssa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland). It reads:

To: The members of the Special Committee From: The Undersigned Members of the Oregon Assembly

December 13, 2012

We the undersigned write with respect to the single bill under consideration in the 2012 Special Session of the legislature.

We deeply appreciate the historic investment the Nike Corporation has made in Oregon, and we look forward to their growth in our state. Living-wage jobs in the knowledge economy are crucial to Oregon’s future.

We have some concerns about the process by which the legislature was asked to hear this bill. A Special Legislative Session should be used as a last resort to address emergency issues that cannot wait until the next regular session. Many of us wish that this issue could be taken up in the 2013 session where it could be given the time to fully explore policy options and impacts.

Since the Governor has explained that this opportunity cannot wait, we would like to address some of the concerns that have been brought to us and some ways to improve the bill.

· Shorten the Sunset: Keeping the life of this bill short would allow for the legislature to consider if this tool is smart to apply more broadly. · Shorten the length of the deals: Locking in a given tax deal for a much shorter period would still provide a lot of certainty for a company, without locking in a particular tax arrangement past the seeable horizon.
· Accountability: There are job growth and capital investment promises. A strengthened “clawback” provision could help keep those promises. · Clarify Job Requirements: Make sure that the jobs that count to satisfy the deal are living wage jobs that last in Oregon. · Transparency: Make sure that any company that takes advantage of the deal discloses the benefits and progress towards the commitments in accordance with Oregon’s transparency principles.

We hope that such changes will strengthen the bill, better protect the public interest, and give lawmakers greater confidence in the legislation.

Thank you for your consideration and for your service.

So far, only 10 legislators have signed on. Signers include the two mentioned above and: Lew Frederick (D-Portland),Michael Dembrow (D-Portland),Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie), Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), Peter Buckley (D-Ashland), Chris Harker (D-Washington County), Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard) and Mary Nolan (D-Portland).

I'm told by the House Democrats leadership office that there are members of leadership who are also pushing for these provisions but haven't signed on to the letter.

I've reached out to the Senate Democratic office to see if they have any plans to join these House Dems in their endeavor.

connect with blueoregon