Greetings friends and colleagues.
The first issue on my mind as new AAUP-Oregon President is tax justice. Our students, our universities, our communities, and our environment all suffer from a gross imbalance in who, and what contributes to our common good in Oregon.
Amid relatively good economic times – high corporate profits, low unemployment, modestly rising income – our public universities are seeing cuts to faculty, significant hikes to tuition, and numerous other forms of austerity. This austerity extends to all of Oregon, afflicting children’s health, schools, community services, services for elderly, environmental protection, and much more.
Closer to home – and work – our public universities, like our public schools, contort yet again with this ongoing funding crisis. This crisis is not the result of public employee raises or retirement benefits, but a consequence of a decades-plus corporate effort to successfully cut their taxes. As fewer corporations doing business in Oregon pay any taxes at all and as the total share of corporate income taxes to the state general fund dropped to a mere 6.3% this biennium, we face a politically manufactured crisis. Nearly 90% of the General Fund comes from volatile individual income taxes. This is not a recession proof plan for our state – in fact, it is a recipe for institutional disaster that will impact students, staff, and faculty at all public universities in the state.
It is critical that all Oregonians ask who suffers and who benefits from this private distortion of public policy? Whose private interests besiege our common welfare?
A Sustainable Solution? Tax Justice!
Oregon’s ongoing and embarrassing disinvestment from public education resulted in the recent extreme 9-10.5% tuition hikes proposed by the administrations of PSU and UO, respectively. The proposed hikes were approved by their respective boards, but because the proposed tuition hikes surpassed a 5% threshold, approval by the Higher Education Coordinating Committee (HECC) was required. As many of you now know, those tuition hikes were not approved and administrators are now making their predictable calls for more cuts, more austerity.
We are thus seeing the limits of a failed system where escalating tuition is expected to support a robust mission for public higher education. Meanwhile, large corporations subsidize their income and profits with Oregon’s low tax environment.
Oregon is last in the country on corporate taxation. While a few level-headed business leaders are working with elected leaders in Salem to come up with a corporate gross receipts tax, leaders in the Oregon Business Council and the Portland Business Alliance are dragging their heels. In fact, some are involved in outright sabotage with millions of dollars spent on misleading ads that equate a corporate tax increase with a consumer sales tax (see this secretive corporate campaign, priorityoregon.com). If other states can tax corporate receipts or profits more than Oregon, then we can too.
AAUP-Oregon will be joining with our partners in the Higher Education Coalition on Wednesday, May 24th to urge our legislators to support the Oregon Education Investment Initiative. This plan would increase revenue by $2 billion via a corporate activities tax while allowing for income tax breaks for low- and middle-income earners and a $1.4 billion investment in education. This is the revenue model we’ve been fighting for, and we need to show up in Salem to make sure our legislators carry this from proposal to legislation.
First off, we need AAUP-Oregon faculty members to join with university staff and students in Salem. Together, faculty, staff, and students will be placed in lobby teams. Each team will be briefed on the issue, trained to effectively communicate with their legislators, and then sent out to small group meetings with legislators. If you are interested in attending or have any questions, please contact Ashley Bromley at email@example.com.
If you cannot join us on the 24th of May, please stay tuned here and we will forward some options for you to email, phone, and petition legislators to help pass a bill that brings needed tax justice to Oregon. We plead you to take action on this in weeks ahead.
Following our 2016-17 Annual Meeting, our state conference welcomes new leadership and staff and offers immense gratitude to those who served our efforts. I want to first acknowledge and thank Professor José Padín for the inspiration and clarity that he brought as President to our state conference. No doubt he will continue bringing that same leadership to PSU-AAUP. Our outgoing Executive Director, Margaret Butler, has been busy working with our incoming Executive Director, Ashley Bromley, to assure our voice from campuses across the state echoes unencumbered to elected leaders in Salem.
Please share my gratitude for the service others have given to our academic labor movement and to those now stepping into roles to carry us forward through challenging times.