StopEmployerTaxBloglogoThe Salem Area Chamber of Commerce is standing with local business against an unfair employer tax set to appear on the November ballot.

Salem-Keizer Transit will ask voters to decide whether to fund an expansion of services by implementing an employer tax of 0.21 percent on employers and self-employed. The Salem Chamber and the Create Jobs PAC believe this is an unfair funding mechanism, putting the burden of supporting a community program on small businesses.

A number of concerns have been raised with using the employer tax as funding for transit. For one, the area’s largest employer – state government – is exempt, leaving small, local businesses responsible for funding Transit’s expansion of services. Likewise, the employer tax will deter job retention as additional resources go toward paying the tax rather than creating new jobs or increasing the wages of current employees.

“Our community does not need another tax on small business during an economic recovery already scarce of jobs,” said T.J. Sullivan, president of the Create Jobs PAC, which is leading the charge against the employer tax. “This expansion of services is desired, but should be accomplished through a mechanism that is fair to all, not one that targets a small segment of our community.”

In January, members of the Salem-Keizer Transit Board presented their plans for expanding services to Chamber members at a public policy session. During that presentation, the Transit Board discussed an employer tax and a property tax as options for funding. After this, both the Salem Chamber’s Executive Team and Board of Directors held meetings to discuss the Chamber’s stand on the issue. In a letter sent to the Transit Board January 21st, the Chamber encouraged them to pursue a property tax, stating that they would likely “lead formal opposition to any payroll tax campaign presented to voters as we feel the costs of expanded service should be shared more broadly across the community as a whole.”

“Having a healthy transit system is important to the vitality of our community,” said Nick Williams, director of public affairs for the Salem Chamber. “But relying exclusively on small businesses to foot the bill while we are amidst a delicate economic recovery would not be in the best interests of job creation in our region.”

The Salem Chamber has been working behind the scenes to find alternative funding sources for transit. John Watt & Associates, a public affairs and policy firm with a strong transit funding resume, was hired by the Create Jobs PAC to help create alternative funding from Oregon’s legislature, which would provide a more stable source of income for the transit district.

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