Measure 97 is confusing. But the monster tax measure that'll be on your November ballot, which the Merc hasn't taken a position on no matter what you've heard, is also spurring vital conversations in a state with chronically underfunded public services.

You should educate yourself.

For a solid rundown, check out the 34-page draft report a City Club of Portland research committee released today. In a divided decision, a seven-person majority of that committee came out in favor of Measure 97, which could raise upwards of $1.5 $3 billion dollars a year. A four-person minority came out against the measure. The report itself is an even-handed picture of the arguments for and against Measure 97.

If Oregonians give Measure 97 the nod on November 8, it'll amount to a big tax hike for C corporations—a common tax designation that captures most, but not all, large companies—that sell more than $25 million worth of product in Oregon. Currently, those companies are taxed $100,000 per year. If the tax measure being floated by labor-backed Our Oregon passes, it'll be well above that: 2.5 percent on all sales above $25 million, with no upper limit.

The problem the tax hike seeks to correct isn't much up for debate: Oregon doesn't have enough money to adequately pay for schools, health care, senior services, or a boat load of other things. That shortfall, the City Club and many others note, has roots in the approval of anti-tax Measure 5—which Oregonians enacted in 1990 and which strictly limited property tax collections—along with subsequent measures. Today, those changes result in $6 billion in lost revenue each year.

Everyone agrees this situation needs to be fixed. The fight that ensues in the next two-and-a-half months will be whether Measure 97's solution will ultimately help things.

The majority of the City Club committee found "it represents the first truly viable solution to more than two decades of revenue shortages in Oregon," despite concerns it could amount to regressive price increases for consumers, and unfairly targets C corporations while leaving others untouched.

The dissenting group argues "a more carefully tailored tax could meet the goals of increased revenue and stability without the fundamental flaws and uncertainty of Measure 97." But new taxes are notoriously difficult to get through Oregon's legislature. Oregon is one of three states where three-fifths of lawmakers have to vote up a new tax.

The City Club as a whole will vote on whether to support the report later this month. Read it here: