Rural Oregon legislators want Nike-like deals

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SALEM, Ore. — Legislators from rural Oregon say there were what one calls "hurt feelings" a year ago when Nike got favorable tax treatment from the state, and they'd like to see something of a like nature for small businesses throughout the state.

They don't have details worked out, but they say they'll press for legislation during their session next year, the Bulletin newspaper of Bend reports.

Last year, the Legislature guaranteed Nike its beneficial tax structure won't change for 30 years, and Nike promised a major expansion in Oregon. Earlier this month, Gov. John Kitzhaber extended similar terms to Intel, which also is expanding.

Both companies are headquartered in the Portland region, a point not lost on the legislators from districts outside the urban area.

"One or two districts in the state of Oregon got special consideration while other parts of the state that could have benefited from like legislation were excluded," said Republican Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner, on the Columbia Plateau in Morrow County.

He said feelings hurt during a special session on the Nike deal haven't recovered.

"You still have legislators saying, 'why not us? why not our small businesses?"' he said.

House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte says the job-creation requirements in the deals with the big companies could be reduced and "still create incentives for people to locate and expand."

Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon, said the deal illustrates the power of certainty about what taxes a business will confront.