It's obviously been a while since Oregonians passed Measures 66 and 67, ballot items that hiked taxes on the wealthiest among us and also increased the minimum tax that corporations must pay, to plug a part of a state budget gap and avoid other cutbacks. But the claim offered up by opponents of the measure—that the measures are driving rich people and their businesses out of the state—refuses to go quietly.
Usually, though, the claim is buttressed with anecdotal evidence—if that. Back in February, you might remember a KGW story that supposed such a migration. The story wasn't right. It even came up earlier in February, during a Mercury-Oregon Bus Project Brewhaha with four state lawmakers. In a discussion on taxes, Democratic Representative Lew Frederick asked Republican Representative Patrick Sheehan to cite examples of jobs lost because of the measures. Sheehan couldn't, off the top of his head, and later sent the Mercury printouts from some 2010 Oregonian and Portland Business Journal stories in which a small number of businesses fretted about the hikes.
Okay. But what does science say? (Besides that revenue from the measures didn't come in as high as hoped.) NPR this morning featured a couple of studies that have attempted to actually quantify the issue. The gist, according to one of the study's authors?
There may be plenty of reasonable arguments for avoiding new taxes on the rich. You can argue that new taxes aren't fair. You can argue that they affect investments in new businesses. But a mass exodus? So far, no one has proved it.
It turns out, according to the studies, people move for lots of other reasons—like jobs, or sun, or cheaper housing. Taxes don't appear to be much of a driver on their own.
And what about the argument that the measures are also driving away businesses? A study released this month says Oregon's actually among the most competitive states—No. 2—when it comes to corporate tax burdens.
Notes Scott Moore, spokesman for Our Oregon, the political outfit that pushed for the two tax measures: "That was the case before Measure 67, and it was the case after Measure 67."