Corporate kicker discussion delves into the philosophical
Monday, February 6, 2023
The corporate kicker tax refund is supposed to go to education. Senate Bill 521would make sure it’s a real addition to school funds.
The corporate and personal kickers are tax money returned when Oregon revenue exceeds budget projections by 2%. But in 2012, Ballot Measure 85 decreed that the corporate kicker would go to the State School Fund instead of going back to businesses.
On Tuesday, Jan. 31, the Senate Education Committee considered SB 521, which would alter the corporate kicker statutes. Discreet alterations could make big changes to the way schools receive funding.
SB 521 would require that corporate kicker money be dedicated “to provide additional funding for kindergarten through grade 12 public education” rather than to the State School Fund, a subtle but profound change.
Since the ballot measure passed, budget writers have used corporate kicker funds to replace general fund allocations to the State School Fund, allowing those general funds to be directed elsewhere. Oregonians, voting in 2012, may have thought they were adding money from corporations to school funds, but for practical purposes, they merely sent money from corporations to the general fund, with a budgetary step in between.
There appears to have been no formal opposition to Measure 85, likely because it was viewed by many as a way to direct additional investment into Oregon’s K-12 public school system.
Skeptics question whether it's a good fiscal policy to direct one-time money to fund ongoing operations, but bill proponents say that is effectively what is being done anyway.
Morgan Allen, the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators deputy executive director of policy and advocacy, testified that the current set-up results in no net gain for schools.
Testimony Tuesday included suggestions for using the corporate kicker money, such as funding facilities upgrades in communities that can’t pass bonds. David Morocco, a Rosebury School District teacher, described local challenges, such as schools closing in extreme heat because they don’t have air conditioning. But Roseburg failed to pass a bond to upgrade its schools in 2020 and again in 2022.
SB 521’s future is unclear. There are legislative advantages to budget flexibility, and one-time money is a challenge to use responsibly. But it would seem that supporters of Measure 85 intended for schools to get excess funds, not for the State School Fund to simply stand as an accounting line before the money ends up elsewhere.