GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
A first draft of Oregon’s much-anticipated climate legislation hit the street this week in Salem, and though business and industry may not offer a full-throated endorsement, or even tepid support, there was a lot more for them to like about the rewrite from last year’s version. The cap and invest bill, as it’s commonly known, has been under debate for three legislative sessions. This time around, it’s a top priority for Democratic leaders, who now have a supermajority in both legislative chambers, a governor who looks on the bill as a legacy issue, and strong backing from environmental, social justice and low-income advocates. Republicans and some business groups, meanwhile, see the policy as substantial new tax on businesses and consumers that could scare jobs away while doing little to move the needle on global carbon emissions. The legislation would set an economy-wide limit on emissions of greenhouse gases that declines each year. Utilities, industrial companies and transportation fuel providers that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents would be required to annually acquire emissions allowances to cover their emissions, either in a state auction or on a secondary market. As the cap ratchets down, those allowances would get more expensive, forcing companies to reduce their emissions.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon’s governor had some choice words about the ongoing measles outbreak in the Portland region when she spoke at a forum in Bend on Friday. “Please get your children vaccinated,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “We know that what we are doing is not working because we’re seeing the measles outbreak. I’ll let the medical people talk about how important it is, but holy smokes, this is basic science. It absolutely is.” “Oregon statutes around requiring immunizations are — from a national perspective — relatively weak,” Brown added. “The state senator (Elizabeth Steiner Hayward) who attempted to strengthen our vaccination rates was literally bogged down by avid parents. Honestly, I think the medical community needs to speak out.” Brown’s comments Friday aren’t the first time she’s been outspoken about her support for immunizations, even though some Northwest areas rank among the lowest vaccination rates in the country. During an October debate against Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler, Brown said “we probably give parents a little too much leeway.”
Oregon’s offshore tax system faces a potential overhaul in the Legislature, one year after lawmakers repealed the state’s five-year old tax haven legislation. The debate is about Oregon’s role in the global marketplace and its need to collect taxes from corporations with interests outside the U.S. Lawmaker actions from 2018 will get scrutiny in the debate, too. Tax reform advocates say Oregon lawmakers moved too quickly when they repealed the state’s tax haven law. That law rerouted the Oregon-earned income of companies based offshore for tax collection purposes. Oregon’s former tax haven law was a blacklist: It targeted and named countries, like the Cayman Islands, San Marino and the Cook Islands. The new effort would not bring the blacklist back. Instead, it would put a reporting system in place requiring corporations to disclose where they earned money. Critics of Oregon’s current tax system say the state needs to do more to reduce the likelihood of corporations exploiting loopholes and moving money outside Oregon and the U.S. to avoid taxes. Supporters of the 2018 repeal say the blacklist discouraged investment and job creation from corporations with legitimate interests outside the U.S. The repeal was part of a larger tax bill, Senate Bill 1529, which was sparked by federal changes that Congress made to corporate tax law.
Three Oregon lawmakers are looking to give renters a break by eliminating the special fees landlord charge for pets. KOIN reports that House Bill 2683 would wipe out the monthly fees and with the exception of a deposit, it would prohibit landlords that allow pets in their units from charging tenants additional rent or fees simply based on possession of pets. The lawmakers who sponsor the bill said it would also prevent rent prices from going up further than they already are in a tight housing market. Ron Garcia with the Rental Housing Alliance said he feels the bill is misguided and will hurt the people it’s trying to help. He said because those fees are needed to compensate for pet wear and tear and he feels landlords will end up charging more for deposits
Portland expects the city’s unusual tax on companies with high-paid chief executives will bring in between $2.5 million and $3.5 million in its first year, in line with forecasts from when the city approved the law. Last year was the first Portland’s unique tax was in effect, capitalizing on new federal regulations that require companies to disclose the ratio between what their CEOs make and median employee pay. Portland won’t disclose how much individual companies have paid under the tax, citing taxpayer privacy protections. And nearly 100 companies have sought extensions while they adjust to the new taxes. Even if the tax hits the top end of Portland’s forecast range, $3.5 million is a tiny share of the city’s $621 million general fund — 0.6 percent, to be precise. Publicly traded companies were first required to report CEO ratios in 2018, covering their 2017 financial results. Among Oregon-based companies, 2017 ratios ranged from 379-1 (Nike) to 28-1 (NW Natural.) Companies will begin reporting last year’s pay ratios in the coming weeks. Executive pay is creating a new class of super wealthy, Novick argued, distorting executive pay and economic power while diverting corporate resources that could be used to raise the wages of the lowest paid.
Portland nonprofit Ecotrust, found last year to have broken the rules when it secured $1.3 million of state tax credits for a questionable sawmill deal, has requalified for all that money with a new deal to create five warehouse jobs in Tualatin. Meanwhile, Oregon Department of Justice officials continue what a spokeswoman described Friday as a “very active” investigation into the original sawmill deal. Officials at the Oregon Department of Revenue and state economic development agency Business Oregon concluded last year that Ecotrust had not legitimately qualified for the tax credits because it “failed to accurately characterize and disclose the intended use of proceeds,” among other failings, documents show. Regulators gave the eco-centric nonprofit 90 days to make an above-board transaction to keep the credits. Ecotrust subsequently proposed giving a local office supplies distributor $3.6 million to buy a Tualatin warehouse, a deal the nonprofit says will create five jobs paying about $15 an hour. Regulators at Business Oregon and the Oregon Department of Revenue approved that redo nearly two weeks ago.
The group pushing to bring a Major League Baseball team to Portland has a busy few months ahead. The Portland Diamond Project is finalizing its first face-to-face meeting with the league commissioner since the local backers announced a stadium plan for a Northwest Portland marine cargo terminal. They continue to meet with city officials, who will have to approve the rezoning of the site and figure out a way to get up to 32,000 fans there. And a looming milestone arrives in May, when the group must begin paying the Port of Portland for exclusive negotiating rights to the cargo terminal site. It’s still unclear where the group will find the money to fund the stadium and acquisition of a team. The Portland Diamond Project this month disclosed its charter members, who are bankrolling the early efforts. And The Oregonian/OregonLive’s John Canzano reported the group had shown Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler letters from investors pledging more than $1.3 billion. The group, which has kept its major investors close to the vest, declined to confirm that number and it hasn’t disclosed its big-money backers for the $2.5 billion effort. But Craig Cheek, the Diamond Project’s president, sat down for a wide-ranging conversation that covered expected ticket prices, a bill that would take back the Oregon Legislature’s 2003 approval of bonds for stadium construction and his pitch for a small-market team.
25 years ago I began my relationship with campaign finance reform
efforts in Oregon, leading the only coalition to pass a significant
ballot measure on the issue. This experience, which included a diverse
collection of organizations such as League of Women Voters, Common
Cause, and the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, provides
important insight for campaign finance reform efforts by Gov. Kate Brown
and others today. However, Oregon’s current campaign finance laws
clearly need reform, as the recent gubernatorial election demonstrated
with record spending on both sides. As I experienced firsthand, the
tendency is to match spending dollar for dollar in an escalating fashion
– especially when the election is competitive. This needlessly turns
into a positive feedback loop fueled increasingly by national and
special interest dollars. Contribution limits, which Brown is advocating
for now and I supported in the past, will not solve this problem, but
rather make our campaign finance system worse. Dollars would instead
flow away from (mostly) transparent candidate campaigns to shadowy
organizations, surfacing as independent expenditures. One only needs to
look to the federal races to see the truth of this claim. Opaque super
PAC’s, not accountable to any constituency other than unknown boards,
spend millions protecting special interests and spreading propaganda
with reckless abandon. Voters can show their opposition to candidates’
messages at the ballot box, but they are powerless against the
proliferation of these organizations. Campaign finance reform has
complex and difficult hydraulics: When the flow of money is impeded in
one direction, it seeps through the cracks in another. Instead of
contribution limits, which would lock in incumbent advantage and
encourage more dark money spending, Oregon should pursue The People’s
Pledge as a more transparent, innovative and legally viable solution.
Opinion: Adding tenant protections for housing stability
Tina Kotek and Peter Courtney
Oregonian, every human being, needs a place to call home. Shelter is a
basic need. Safe, stable housing for everyone is the foundation of a
safe, stable community. Unfortunately, we hear stories everyday about
extreme rent spikes and sudden evictions across Oregon that are robbing
people of their basic human right to shelter. In 2017, there were over
152,000 Oregon renters who paid more than half of their income on their
housing, according to the American Community Survey. That’s one in four
renters. Too many renters are just one unexpected financial crisis away
from becoming homeless. We know from newspapers and social service
providers that Oregonians in every corner of the state have experienced
unbearable rent increases and unfair evictions. The Legislature must
confront this crisis head on. We must smooth the way for more
construction. We must increase emergency housing assistance. We must
publicly finance more affordable housing across Oregon. We believe all
solutions should be on the table if our state is to get ahead of the
housing crisis. One of those solutions is Senate Bill 608. The rental
market needs more predictability and fairness. Senate Bill 608 seeks to
address two main issues that have wreaked havoc on too many renters:
No-cause evictions and sudden extreme rent increases. Today, our laws
allow many renters to be evicted with as little as 30-days’ notice for
no reason and for renters to receive unlimited rent increases. Senate
Bill 608 is an innovative, hybrid solution combining common sense tenant
protections with reasonable accommodations for landlords and
developers. It prohibits no-cause evictions after 12-months of a
tenancy. The bill also protects people by preventing extreme rent
Readers respond: How will baseball stadium affect climate?
I have two questions for those who want to bring a major league baseball team to Portland: Do you care about global warming and the devastating effects it will continue to have on communities, people of lower socioeconomic status and wildlife? Have you considered what the carbon output of building a baseball stadium will be, including fossil fuel consumption from construction, electricity, vehicles stacked in line waiting to get into parking lots as well as the team and its associates’ means of travel on buses, vans and airplanes? I challenge the Oregonian/OregonLive to conduct an in-depth study of the impact on the environment and carbon emissions from having a professional baseball team come to Portland. I would want to have this information before deciding whether or not to support it.
I read in the Jan. 19 article, “Oregon lawmakers propose unorthodox approach to rent control,” the state Legislature is likely to pass a rent control bill this year. It will “limit” rent increases to 7 percent, plus inflation. So, let’s see what that does for me. I am retired, and this year we got a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase, which equates to about $50 a month for me — by far the largest I’ve received in the seven years I have been retired. Based on this proposed legislation, my landlord will be “limited” to raising my rent by 9.8 percent, which in my case would be about $101 a month. Wow, thanks a lot. I already pay half my income in rent, so I can see in a few years with these incredibly strict “limits,” I will be out on the street — or who knows where. Just how I dreamed of spending my golden years. Kind of makes me wonder how many of our legislators are landlords and how many of them are tenants.