HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICE
STATE GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Some Oregonians could actually face a state income tax increase if Congress passes the Republican tax cut plan that was formally unveiled Thursday. “Potentially, yes, it could be an increase for the state,” said Paul Warner, who runs the Legislative Revenue Office in Salem.
The plan faces uncertain prospects, but one proposed change could disproportionately affect Oregonians: its provision largely eliminating federal deductions for state and local income and sales taxes. For Oregonians, who pay income taxes that are high compared to other states, doing away with most of that deduction could mean higher federal taxes, because there would be more money to tax.
The Portland chapter of Democratic Socialists of America announced Wednesday that it has reached 600 dues-paying members. That’s an 3,900-percent increase from this time last year, when the chapter had 15 members. “I think the election is really what spurred people into action,” says Olivia Katbi Smith, chapter secretary and co-chair of the chapter’s feminist branch. “After the election, a lot of people felt pretty helpless. You see DSA is on the ground doing stuff, making stuff happen, and I think people want to be a part of that.”
An expected resignation and a surprise appointment will leave northern Deschutes and all of Jefferson county with vacant or lame-duck representation in the Legislature.
“Representing our community as a member of the Legislature continues to be an incredible honor,” Sprenger said. “As I look ahead to 2018, I continue to believe there is more we can do to improve the quality of life for Oregonians across the state, including attracting family-wage jobs to our rural communities and improving our public education system. I look forward to once again having the opportunity to earn the support of my friends and neighbors in House District 17.”
As of 10 p.m. Thursday, both sides were still actively negotiating details of the contract. The main focus of disagreement: pay raises. The union wants far bigger ones than the district is offering. The haggling takes place against the backdrop of the 2014-17 contract, which gave union members pay raises in two ways: annual cost-of-living increases and step increases — automatic annual raises triggered by seniority and level of education.
JOBS & THE ECONOMY
The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday businesses looking to recover from lost revenue can get loans up to 30 years with interest rates ranging from 2.5 to 3.3%. The applications, sent to the Federal Small Business Administration, will be accepted through next summer. Businesses and non-profits from Hood River, Multnomah, Wasco and adjacent counties are eligible.
“We created a 1.5 percent tax on health insurance and premiums on Medicaid to help close that gap,” said Patrick Allen is the Director for Oregon Health Authority. Allen says private health insurance and Medicaid premiums weren’t the only programs that were taxed. “It also has a small tax on hospitals and a small tax on the amount receive by coordinating care organizations that provide Medicare,” says Allen.
The state Bureau of Labor and Industries, which announced the fines Thursday, said it’s the largest amount of civil penalties in the agency’s history. In a statement, Legacy Health said it disagreed with the bureau’s assessment but decided not to spend money on lawyers in disputing the fines.
Because of the compressed time frame and contradictory headlines about health coverage, this year promises to be “very confusing,” says Jesse O’Brien, a consumer advocate for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, which has been tracking health insurance for years.
Deschutes County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Alta Brady is stepping down from the bench. Brady will serve her last day Dec. 31, according to a letter she sent Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday. That’s a year before her term would expire.
Instead of continuing to convene small task forces and then ignoring their recommendations, Oregon needs to take a much larger, comprehensive, approach to reducing the PERS burden. This should include a willingness to go to court and make the case that PERS threatens public services to such an extent that at least the future growth in payments needs to be reduced, a possibility suggested by Oregonian reporter Ted Sickinger, who has long followed the PERS saga. PERS has become a financial crisis for Oregon, starving schools and other public services of needed funds. It’s time for a response that equals the magnitude of the problem.
The Oregon bar has long been concerned about the fact that for too many of this state’s residents, price really is an obstacle when it comes to hiring a lawyer. No doubt it’s a valid concern, and allowing lawyers to split fees with for-profit referral services will not only not improve the situation, it’s likely to make the problem worse.
The tax plan unveiled by House Republicans Thursday fails a crucial test at the outset: It adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a 10-year period — probably more. But the GOP desperately needs to pass some sort of tax reduction and simplification bill, both to validate its control of Congress and to allow President Trump to claim a legislative victory. Some version of the proposal is likely to pass.