Oregon lawmakers are prepping for a short special session to begin this week aimed at securing a Nike expansion in the state. The sports giant recently acknowledged that it is being wooed by other states but has promised to bring at least 500 jobs and $150 million in capital investment in the next 5 years if the legislation to be considered becomes law. The company's world headquarters is near Portland.
The situation is notable because Nike isn't asking for any new tax favors from the state — just a promise that it will be exempted if current tax incentives on business income are eliminated in the near term. The legislation would allow the governor to enter into agreements promising tax certainty to Nike and other firms considering investments of at least the same magnitude.
“With legislative action this week, Oregon can secure high wage jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of new private investment in the next five years,” Kitzhaber said in a statement. “In fact, Nike is ready to commit to a significant expansion of its Oregon operations if the state can provide certainty we won't change tax rules after they make a new investment. It's an easy call and a perfect fit with our strategy to attract and retain companies that create jobs and boost per capita income.”
The legislation comes as tax incentives for businesses have come under increasing scrutiny in Oregon and elsewhere for their expense and tendency to pit states and localities against each another. A recent front-page story in The New York Times estimated the total national cost of such credits at more than $80 billion. Research by Pew Center on the States, Stateline's parent organization, found that half the states aren't even measuring the effectiveness of their incentives.
Legislative leaders of both parties have voiced support for the legislation. “Oregon needs jobs, and after four years of inaction any bill that brings a significant number of jobs to our state is a good bill,” Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli said in a statement. A special legislative committee has been formed to take public testimony Thursday morning (December 13) a day before the special session convenes.
Kitzhaber emphasized Nike's importance to the state as a provider of high-wage jobs. The company's Oregon employment has grown 60 percent since 2007, with average annual compensation of $100,000.