After a year of transition in both my personal life and career, I’m ready to rejoin the rollercoaster of political campaigns. Some of this comes from a place of wanting to work more autonomously than is often possible at my government day job. Some of this comes from the successes and failures I’ve learned from interviewing political leaders and organizing at Rhythm Nation. Some of this came out of the soul searching I did in response to some heavy life events over the past year. Most of all, this came about by people I deeply admire expressing their belief in me by asking me to help lead an incredibly impactful cause. After a couple months of feeling it out, I’ve decided to join the Oregon Rebate 2024 campaign as an unpaid advisor.
What it is
The Oregon Rebate is a ballot initiative that increases the minimum corporate tax rate for amounts above $25 million of in-state revenue from less than 1% to 3%, a reasonable level that puts Oregon on par with states like Nevada. That’s projected to bring in about $3 billion dollars in annual revenue, all of which would be evenly rebated to every Oregonian every year. None of the money will be sent to the legislature. We estimate that the value of each rebate to be about $750. For example, a family of four will get four rebates, or about $3,000.
How it makes transformative change
$3,000 a year in extra non-taxable income makes a dramatic difference for families living near the poverty line. We’ve used a calculator published by UBI Center to estimate that the Oregon Rebate reduces overall poverty in Oregon by about 15%, child poverty by about 26%, and poverty in the Hispanic/Latinx communities by about 28%. We’ve seen how the Biden administration’s child tax credit has temporarily lifted 2.9 million kids out of poverty. It’s a shame that it didn’t get extended, but we have the chance here in Oregon to do locally what couldn’t be done nationally.
The Oregon Rebate will also make a difference for working class and middle-class folks. I think of my classmate whose family was only able to send them to college because they socked away money from a similar program called the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. This program is funded by oil revenues and provides about $1,600 a year in guaranteed income to each resident. In this Republican controlled state, 79% percent of Alaskans say the PFD is an important source of income for people in their community. Similarly, the Oregon Rebate is a hand up, not a handout because wages haven’t kept up with inflation. It’s completely fair that large multinational corporations, who comprise almost the entire list of the 1,800 companies taxed, should foot the bill given their record profits during the pandemic and the decades leading up to it.
The eligibility for the rebate is intentionally as broad as possible, and it includes minors, dependents, unemployed, etc. High earners, many of whom might not need it, will get this rebate as well. That’s perfectly acceptable when you consider the many costs of an alternative “means tested” program, including higher administrative costs, more administrative errors, politically divisive policy, work disincentives, benefit delays and more. In short, universal programs like Oregon Rebate are easier and more intuitive for people to understand and utilize.
Why it’s feasible
Oregon’s corporate minimum tax is among the lowest in the country. Counter arguments that raising the corporate minimum tax to the same level as other states will somehow hurt jobs or local businesses are baseless. As Andrew Yang told me last year when I interviewed him about the Oregon Rebate, “3% is a rounding error for these companies.” Oregonians of all political stripes agree that corporations are not paying their fair share. The fact that this initiative helps people with cold, hard cash without meaningfully increasing the size of the government makes this compelling to Oregonians who think of themselves as more “libertarian” than “progressive.”
Oregon Rebate is a true movement that was started by community groups outside of the Portland political establishment and has the potential to transcend political dogma. Volunteers of this campaign see its unifying power when they gather a signature from someone wearing a “Let’s go Brandon” T-Shirt. As the unofficial tagline of the campaign makes clear — Could you use 750 bucks? — everyone understands the power of cash. The rebate would inject millions into local communities, including $7 million a year into Astoria and $287 million a year into the Eugene-Springfield metro area, a significant selling point for owner-operated businesses across Oregon.
Who’s behind it
To date, the Oregon Rebate is endorsed by the Oregon Working Families Party, PCUN Farmworkers Union, The Progressive Party of Oregon, DSA Eugene-Springfield and a number of other community groups. The fact that it’s endorsed by organizations advocating single-payer healthcare illustrates how Oregon Rebate is complementary, not competitive, with expanded government services. Oregon Rebate is funded by hundreds of grassroots donors and also national organizations promoting Guaranteed Income/Universal Basic Income. The detailed record of all of our donations and expenditures can be found at the Oregon Secretary of State’s ORESTAR by searching for our committee “Oregon People’s Rebate,” or simply “rebate.”
How to get involved
We are now collecting signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot, so now is the perfect time to get involved. Sign up to be part of our movement here. Follow @OregonRebate on Twitter and Instagram for updates. If you want to chat with me about the campaign, shoot me an email directly! We are looking to fill volunteer positions and also looking to expand our coalition of endorsing organizations.