Monday, January 29, 2007


Corporate Tax Evasion?

Funding urban development and infra-structure like schools, streets, sewer systems, and so forth falls on the property-tax-payers. The people who pay taxes on their homes, not the corporations. Big corporations make sweet-heart deals all over the country, avoiding property taxes and other expenses. With the various economic squeezes hitting cities and counties, they are desperate to get whatever they can out of corporations—and that comes as donations.

So what the corporations do is become civic donors. How simple, how decent. How...clever. Nike lobbied for nearly $17 million reduction in their corporate taxes per year. Over five years, they’ve donated $9 million. Most of that $9 million went to Portland Public Schools—who definitely needed it, sure. The big developers on the east side of the mountains make all kinds of donations: seasonal festivals, parks, libraries, and schools. They don’t donate more than what they avoid paying under Oregon’s tax laws and under county and city agreements. But what they’ve managed to do is hold the various communities hostage to their donations. If they get offended...bye-bye.

January 20, 2007

Nike's donation of $9 million over five years to three local school districts, including Portland, has district officials doing cartwheels.

But as Steve Duin points out, corporate donations come at a cost --namely, tax revenue. Like $16.7 million in tax revenue that Nike won't be paying to the state for 2006 because of changes in the corporate tax code that the Beaverton-based company actively lobbied for:

"Nike lobbied viciously, and successfully, for the single-sales factor, which dramatically cut income taxes for companies with significant property and payroll in Oregon but a majority of sales outside the state."

No surprise then that Nike donated nine mill over five years when if saved nearly twice that in a single tax year.

Have the district and its board "viciously" lobbied for corporate tax reform at the state legislature? If they have, they've been doing it largely out of the public eye, probably for fear of offending their allies and sugar daddies in the business world.

The increasing reliance on grants and handouts from the private sector to fund schools is worrisome to me. It raises the question: Who ultimately determines policy for Portland Public Schools? Phil Knight? Bill Gates? Or the public in an open and democratic fashion?

The district's excitement over Nike's million dollar donation goes a long way in answering that question.

Thanks, Pete, for the mention of my Nike piece.

Love the name of your blog. Bloggers should indeed "disturb the comfortble", or what are they good for?

I'll be out of action for a while, so keep up the good work.
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