GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Oregon’s largest business association says the $2 billion business tax hike sought by Gov. Kate Brown and Democratic lawmakers is too large, and taxes should only be raised in conjunction with cost-saving reforms to the state’s public pension system. In a letter to lawmakers, Oregon Business & Industry President Sandra McDonough wrote that “$2 billion in new taxes on the business community is too much.” Democrats want to raise at least $2 billion per two-year budget cycle to pump into K-12 and other education improvements.
With support from Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon lawmakers are preparing to ask voters in November 2020 whether to change the state constitution to limit money in politics. There’s a catch: The lawmakers plan to have the measure preempt campaign contribution limits Oregon voters already enacted in 2006. The 2006 restrictions are on the books but unenforceable. The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that the state constitution protects campaign contributions as free speech.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
On Feb. 1, not long after this year’s legislative session began, Oregon state lawmakers got a raise. The pay for most of the state’s 90 legislators increased by nearly 28 percent, to $2,600 every month. House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney now make twice that.
Oregon lawmakers are considering raising their annual pay by nearly $20,000, a move the sponsors say will attract more diverse candidates to the statehouse. “We’re a diverse state — we need a diverse Legislature,” Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, one of the legislators leading the effort, told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Because of the low pay, we are automatically screening out people who really should be represented here.”
Cities remain wary of a legislative proposal that would require many of them to open the way for townhouses and small apartment buildings in neighborhoods filled with single-family homes, even after changes meant to ease them into it. Gov. Kate Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek have promised to tackle troubling trends in Oregon’s housing market. Rising rental prices and real estate costs, especially in the Portland area, have led to what Kotek likes to call a “missing middle” problem: a shortage of homes that middle-class people can afford.
Democrats want to design their way out of Oregon’s housing crisis and are considering a proposal clearing the path for developers to build more apartments and townhouses. The move comes on the heels of a landmark rent control measure and is meant to be part of a multi-pronged approach to combat the state’s housing shortage. Speaker of the House Tina Kotek said Monday the effort will “increase housing choice and the supply of more affordable housing.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Twice in nine months, at least three members of Oregon’s congressional delegation have paid a visit to a little-known school in Salem run by the federal government. “The goal was to find out what the hell is going on,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, still fuming from a tense, 75-minute discussion at Chemawa Indian School, one of just four off-reservation boarding schools in the country.
The U.S. Forest Service has rejected the recently completed management plans for three national forests in the Pacific Northwest, restarting the 15-year process to revise the plans. The plans for the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests were issued last summer, promising to support more than 2,800 jobs and provide about $133 million in annual income, the Lewiston Tribune reported Wednesday.
Gray wolf OR-7’s Rogue Pack is at it again at Jackson County rancher Ted Birdseye’s property, killing a mastiff pup Friday, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The dead dog is the 11th livestock or pet kill attributed to southwest Oregon’s lone wolf pack since September, but the first since Jan. 21 when Birdseye installed “Air Dancer” inflatable tubes in his livestock fields to deter the predators, according to ODFW.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A report released by the Portland Police Bureau found 71 percent of community members only trust the police somewhat, a little or not at all – and that lack of trust is much higher in communities of color. The Portland Police Bureau’s Strategic Insights Report is the first quantifiable examination of mistrust and skepticism toward the bureau since Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler hired Police Chief Danielle Outlaw to make good on his promise to reform the police bureau.
Construction of Oregon’s newest crime lab in Pendleton is six weeks away from completion. The facility exceeds 9,500 square feet at the bottom of Airport Hill in what is effectively the county’s law enforcement center, with the entrance to the Pendleton Police Department and the Oregon State Police Pendleton Area Command just up Airport Road, and the sheriff’s office, jail and parole and probation department within a moment’s drive the other way.
Oregon taxpayers may have heard they would be getting a big, fat kicker check on their 2019 taxes. The tax credit would be worth about $180 for people making between $35,000 and $36,000 and more for people making more. But what happens when Oregon lawmakers face the prospect of returning money to taxpayers? The Legislature’s unofficial maxim — thou shalt not give taxpayers their money back — blazes brightly enough to make the Capitol dome glow. There’s a proposal this session to essentially do away with the kicker. And there’s a proposal to shrink the 2019 kicker check. Both should be rejected. Oregon’s kicker law is one of the few controls on state spending. When the state underestimates how much personal income tax revenue it will receive by 2 percent or more, money gets kicked back to taxpayers. Any personal income tax revenue that is above the original two-year fiscal projection is sent back.