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Businesses lay out cash to back public safety tax.

Byline: Matt Cooper The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran 10/14/2006): McDonald Wholesale Co. did not make a contribution to the public-safety income tax campaign. Charles Huey, chief executive officer of McDonald Candy Co., made a personal contribution. The article on Thursday's Page A1 regarding the income tax incorrectly attributed Huey's personal contribution to the company.

CORRECTION (ran 10/13/2006): Molecular Probes did not contribute to the Lane County public-safety income tax campaign. August Sick, the company's general manager, made a personal contribution. A story on Thursday's Page One incorrectly attributed to the company Sick's personal donation.

Lane County's business community has stepped up to promote a countywide income tax for public safety.

Supporters of the proposed income tax have raised $100,000 to advertise and otherwise promote the Nov. 7 ballot measure, drawing largely from Hynix Semiconductor and other established businesses.

The business community's strong support for the $27 million measure reflects a commitment to fight growing crime and to shoulder much of the cost of the tax, said District Attorney Doug Harcleroad, co-chairman of the "Stop Meth - Invest in Kids" campaign.

"The people who are giving this money, by and large, are the people who are going to be paying this tax in spades," he said.

"The more money you make, the more money you pay."

The political action committee is promoting Measure 20-114. If approved by voters, the measure would impose a 1.4 percent income tax that raises $27 million annually to fund patrol, prosecution, prevention, treatment and more.

The committee collected contributions of $5,000 and more from the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce political action committee, McDonald Wholesale Co. food and drink distributor, Jerry's Home Improvement Center and developer Arlie and Co.

Businesses that donated $1,000 or more include Molecular Probes, Chambers Construction, Stingray Development, McKenzie-Willamette and Sacred Heart hospitals, Wildish Sand and Gravel and three car dealerships - Sheppard Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Kendall Auto.

Top nonbusiness donors include the Lane County Peace Officers Association, the Grace Serbu Trust and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Tribes, each contributing $5,000 or more.

Hynix, the computer-chip maker in west Eugene, led all donors with a $10,000 donation - a "highly unusual" contribution from a company that doesn't normally contribute to ballot measures, spokesman Bobby Lee said.

The company was persuaded by elected officials including Lane County Commissioner Faye Stewart and Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, who approached Hynix with a compelling argument that public safety is underfunded, he said.

Critics say Hynix and other big businesses will largely avoid paying the income tax, but that's subject to debate.

Under the proposed income tax rules, big companies might qualify for exemptions that would mean they would pay little or no tax.

However, the personal income earned by workers and executives would be subject to the tax. And higher-income individuals such as executives would bear the brunt of the tax, while lower-income individuals would pay little or nothing.

In earlier research, the county estimated that taxes on personal income would account for 84 percent of the money raised by the income tax, and the rest would come from taxes on business income. If that number holds, then business income would provide $5 million of the $27 million raised annually, while workers - from executives on down - would provide the majority through personal income tax payments.

The Hynix factory, for example, had $420 million in sales last year. But the company does not disclose the plant's profits. Neither Hynix spokesman Lee nor county Assessor Jim Gangle said they could estimate what Hynix would pay under the tax.

But Gangle said the company's payroll - $64 million to 1,150 workers in 2005 - would likely generate "considerable" county income tax revenue.

The tax measure campaign received more than $7,900 left over from 2004's failed Measure 30 campaign, which favored a temporary statewide personal income tax surcharge to avoid budget cuts.

Piercy, who helped direct the local arm of that campaign, authorized use of the money for the public safety campaign, which she strongly supports, said Springfield businessman Steve Moe, treasurer of the "Stop Meth" campaign.

Brian Obie, a former Eugene mayor and owner of the city's Fifth Street Public Market, donated $7,000, the largest political contribution in his recollection.

With a failing public safety system, Obie said, "our community suffers, whether it's a residence or a business, inside the city or out. It suffers in quality of life and values."

Dave Hauser, secretary of the Eugene Chamber political action committee, said there is a direct correlation between public safety and the chamber's mission to promote a healthy local economy. The chamber's $6,500 contribution came from voluntary donations by members, not dues, he noted.

"When you look at crimes associated with the meth epidemic, we know that business owners, their property and their employees are not immune to the consequences of that worsening situation," Hauser said.

In addition to traditional businesses, the campaign was boosted by Serbu, a philanthropist and measure campaign co-chair, and both the metro area's hospitals, which recognize drug treatment as an important health-care issue, said Harcleroad. Harcleroad and his wife donated $1,000.

The campaign also got a lift Wednesday from local social service agencies, which endorsed the tax measure in what publicists called an "unprecedented" show of public support. The agencies included the Relief Nursery, Womenspace, CASA and Looking Glass.

Nearly 30 percent of the tax revenue is earmarked for enhanced drug and alcohol treatment, prevention programs and reducing family violence, officials said.

"The measure is about more than jail beds and increased police presence," said Irene Alltucker of the Relief Nursery.

`(Measure) 20-114 recognizes the critical role prevention, treatment and law enforcement play in addressing the meth crisis in Lane County.'

TOP DONORS Top donors to the Lane County public-safety income tax campaign include: Hynix: $10,000 Lane Yes on 30: $7,900 Businessman Brian Obie, owner of Fifth Street Public Market: $7,000 Eugene Chamber PAC: $6,500 Six have given at least $5,000: Lane County Peace Officers Association; Grace Serbu Trust; McDonald Wholesale Co., a Eugene-based food and drink distributor; Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, which owns Florence casino; Jerry's Home Improvement Center; Arlie and Co. development firm.
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Title Annotation:Ballot Measures
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 12, 2006
Words:1045
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