Should tax breaks for Nike and other large corporations continue in Oregon?
SALEM -- Governor John Kitzhaber said he would like to call a special session on Friday to create legislation giving him wide latitude to offer larger Oregon companies a tax break - including Nike.
He singled out fears that Nike, planning what he described as a major capital expansion, might leave the state for another with more favorable tax laws.
"Nike is ready to commit to a significant expansion of its Oregon operations if the state can provide certainty we won’t change tax rules after they make a new investment," Kitzhaber said. "It’s an easy call and a perfect fit with our strategy to attract and retain companies that create jobs and boost per capita income.”
He said he briefed both Republican and Democratic party leaders about the need for the new law and for a special session to enact it and they were amenable to the session.
In Kitzhaber's vision, the law would allow the governor of Oregon to work directly with companies that plan to create 500 jobs and can commit to a $150 million expansion plan that would take place within five years.
In Nike's case, Oregon tax regulations for the corporation would not waver from what they are now as the expansion takes place.
In a January, 2010 editorial in the Oregonian, Knight railed against the state's tax system, specifically two ballot measures eventually passed by voters that raised tax rates on the wealthy and on businesses.
Kitzhaber added during questions Monday that the jobs should be at family-wage rates. He would not approve a company that plans an increase of minimum wage jobs. The bar can be met only by a small niche of Oregon companies, he said.
"They didn't say 'if you don't do this we're leaving," Kitzhaber said of Nike. But clearly, the company was being courted to leave the state, he said. The company approached him in recent weeks about an expansion plan that could generate $2 billion a year by 2020, with 12,000 new jobs.
“Nike is a global company with a long history in Oregon," said CFO Don Blair in a prepared statement. "We support this proposed legislation as a way to help us continue to grow in Oregon.”
He pointed out that Nike provides 8,000 jobs in Washington County alone. The average Nike worker makes a six-figure salary, double the state average.
"We have an extraordinary opportunity to create jobs, raise per capita income and reduce poverty," Kitzhaber said of the proposal.