Nearly $5,000 in back taxes later and a six-month-long game of tug-o-war with the Oregon Employment Department equals one exhausted Jim Brunberg. The owner of Mississippi Studios in North Portland is even taking “a small desert vacation” to ease his mind of the havoc that was dealing with the OED, as reported earlier in WW's Rogue
and on WWire
Last year, a random audit left Mississippi Studios flooded in allegations of unpaid back taxes
—cited from a law the OED dug up from the 1960s. The law, a.k.a ORS 657.506, states that musicians are employees of the venues they perform at
—“they just don't understand what a music venue or a concert venue is,” says Brunberg. OED officials told Brunberg they would allow him to pay the back taxes
But now all is said and paid-off, his next big step is to get the law repealed or rewritten. “I'm hoping to just repeal it
…never in a million years did I think I would get involved in these sort of issues,” says Brunberg, who says he has the support of state Rep. Chip Shields and state Sen. Margaret Carter.
The OED says conversations between clients are private, but what they can say is that the law is still in effect. However Brunberg says even the OED “admitted the law was archaic
.” OED spokesman Craig Spivey says that to his knowledge there have been no new venues under audit but that in order to repeal the law, there would need to be new proposed legislation altogether.
Brunberg says the fiasco with ORS 657.506 was enough to make him start CHORAL
, or Concert Hall Operators for the Rational Application of the Law
—a makeshift union of local concert venues. So the next time around he won't be battling alone.