VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Are people moving from Oregon to Washington because of tax increases from Oregon measures 66 and 67? It depends who you ask.
Jason Williams with the Taxpayers Association of Oregon says the Evergreen state is becoming a haven for Oregonians due to no income tax and lower home prices.
He points to data from the Washington State Department of Licensing. The numbers show that 14,696 residents moved into Clark County in 2010. More than half - 7,769 - were from Oregon. That's the highest migration from Oregon to Clark County in 12 years, and 1,332 more than the previous year.
"Portland taxpayers are not flooding into Vancouver for the weather. They're going there because of their low taxes," said Williams.
Measures 66 and 67 passed in 2010, raising Oregon personal and corporate taxes.
However, two economic development specialists in Southwest Washington interviewed by KGW say they can’t point to a single company that has moved to their state from Oregon because of Measures 66 and 67.
Jeanie Ashe, director of business recruitment for the Columbia River Economic Development Council, said that there were several companies that “kicked the tires” right after the measures passed a year ago. But none of them moved to Washington and she has not encountered any companies lately that are talking of moving because of those measures.
Martin Hart-Landsberg, an economics professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, questioned the interpretation that affluent Oregonians were fleeing to Washington as a result of Measure 66's tax increase on higher income earners. "I have seen no meaningful economic data to substantiate this claim," said Hart-Lansberg.
Two SW Washington realtors interviewed by KGW offered anecdotal evidence of clients from Oregon looking to move to SW Washington for tax reasons.
"I think it's a natural, you can call them tax refugees if you like," said Realtor Mike Lamb with Windermere Real Estate/Stellar Group.
Lamb said the migration of some businesses and residents from Oregon to Washington has been taking place for some time. In the early 90's it was for better schools. Lower priced homes are also a factor, said Lamb. "It helps provide buyers for properties here that we might not have otherwise."
"There really are thousands and thousands of people coming from Oregon into Vancouver and they're going there buying homes, setting up families and escaping the high taxes of Oregon," said Williams.
Ashe and Kelly Sills, economic development manager for Clark County, don't agree with Williams’ interpretation.
Ashe said most of the companies that move to Washington do so for other reasons, including the fact that Washington does not have a capital gains tax.
She said she knows of business owners who have moved from Oregon and other states to Washington when they are planning to sell their company or pass it along to the next generation to avoid capital gains taxes.
There are high-income Oregonians that she knows personally who moved to Washington to avoid Oregon’s income tax, but that was a trend even before Measures 66 and 67 passed, Ashe said.
Ashe said her experience is that most business owners and executives live and do business where they want to live. She said businesses that are deeply ingrained in the Portland or Oregon culture stay in Oregon regardless the state’s tax structure. That is true of companies in other states like California as well, she said.
Sills said that he doesn’t know any companies that moved to Clark County because of Measures 66 and 67. But he said he knows of a dozen or more companies have seriously considered it because those measures passed.
“They seem to have some level of intent behind their interest,” Sills said.
The issue of the economic impact on Oregon of measures 66 and 67 is likely to continue. Efforts are underway to try to overturn the measures during the 2011 legislative session.
Rod Gramer, Michael Rollins and Frank Mungeam contributed additional reporting to this story.
Editor's note: The first version of this story failed to properly attribute statements to Oregon anti-tax activist Jason Williams.