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Measure 103 aims to protect corporations from regulations that don’t exist. The measure, bankrolled by Oregon’s top grocery and beverage companies, introduces a constitutional amendment that would ban any new taxes on groceries. At the moment, there are no current or pending taxes proposed on the grocery industry in Oregon. This is more of a defensive move by industry leaders who are hoping to preempt any legislative attempts to tax certain types of food—like soda or candy—in the future. It’s no coincidence this measure comes just two years after voters defeated Measure 97, a proposed 2.5 percent tax on the revenue of Oregon’s largest corporations—including those in the grocery biz. Oregon grocers doled out more than $7 million in 2016 to successfully defeat Measure 97.
Measure 103 gives major grocery stores an unnecessary buffer from necessary taxes that may pop up down the road. But we’re even more irked by how sloppily thrown together this particular ballot measure is. The measure defines “groceries” as “raw or processed food or beverages intended for human consumption,” meaning it could effectively ban any new taxes on food sold at convenience stores, farmers’ markets, catering companies, movie theaters, sports arenas, hospitals, hotels, or any kind of restaurant. (This has delighted the restaurant industry, which has put little time or money into lobbying for this measure.) Meanwhile, it will still allow for taxes on non-food items at grocery stores, alcohol, and tobacco products (though some argue its phrasing leaves a loophole for nicotine-only products, like e-cigarettes).
It’s unknown how Measure 103’s vague phrasing and hurried promises will unintentionally impact Oregon industries and consumers. We’re not interested in finding out. Vote no on Measure 103.