GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
A coalition of Oregon House and Senate Republicans announced Thursday they have introduced “a package of tax-savings bills to help middle class and working families in Oregon,” including a tax-cut proposal for low-income families sponsored by Rep. Tim Knopp, R-Bend. Here’s the Republicans’ news release on the proposals: Entitled the “Keeping Oregon Affordable for Middle Class Families” package, the six bills attempt to put more money back in the pockets of families, seniors, and small businesses who disproportionately are paying for the skyrocketing costs of government. “In the face of record revenues, it’s become clear that the cost of government is being borne by working families, seniors, and those small businesses who are being mandated to do more by the legislature, but still have a higher effective tax rate than the largest corporations in the state,” said Rep. Cedric Hayden (R-Fall Creek). “We believe this package will help Oregonians keep more of their hard-earned money to pay for the most pressing budget items Oregon families face each month.”
Lawmakers are moving forward with discussions on three potential tax options that would create hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue specifically for Oregon’s schools. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown wants to raise nearly $2 billion for education in the 2019-21 biennium and she’s tasked the Joint Committee on Student Success with making it happen.
The Oregon Tax Court sided with Democratic lawmakers on a lawsuit filed last year by a Republican state senator hoping to overturn a controversial tax law. If Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, had prevailed, the state could have been left with a quarter-billion dollars less in tax revenue in the current two-year budget of $22.5 billion. But the court backed the state in a March 21 ruling, finding that the law that denies an additional tax break for certain business owners complies with the Oregon Constitution. Boquist said on Thursday that he does not plan to appeal.
The Oregon Secretary of State’s annual financial audit of state agencies that receive federal dollars uncovered a number of concerning issues, including questionable costs and data errors within foster care and other welfare programs. Instead of the usual deep dive on a specific issue or agency, the audit takes a sweeping look at federally funded programs and in some cases, examines small sample sets in order to determine potential patterns. Among the findings, audit officials said Thursday that the review of the 2018 fiscal year found Department of Human Services officials had not properly tracked payments to welfare recipients under the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. That problem led to overpayment in some cases, according to the audit. The review also found inaccuracies in identifying who is eligible for assistance, a recurring problem that the state has faced since 2010.
The Oregon Health Authority still needs to strengthen its efforts to detect and avoid improper Medicaid payments, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office said Wednesday. The office’s audit division released a follow-up report to a 2017 audit that found widespread problems in the Health Authority’s payment system for Medicaid. The report on Wednesday found that two of the eight recommendations in the audit have been put in place and six recommendations have been partially implemented. OHA officials agreed with all the recommendations.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A package of bills aimed at reducing young inmates’ contact with the state’s adult prison system got its first hearing Thursday, with a weighty contingent of justice officials testifying in support. The proposed changes, worked up over the course of months by a legislative work group, seek to ensure offenders who commit serious crimes as adolescents are given a better chance at rehabilitation. That’s a chance that many testified is sharply reduced once juvenile prisoners in custody of the state’s Oregon Youth Authority are transferred at age 25 to the Oregon Department of Corrections.
Oregon child welfare officials are removing foster children from a Klamath Falls residential program located in a county juvenile jail, after lawyers and state lawmakers raised concerns that the girls did not have free access to tampons. Girls recently were given access to three free tampons at a time, but only if they turned over their used hygiene products to staff. Four girls in foster care were assigned to the program as of this week, and the state is moving all of them to other locations by April 1, a Department of Human Services spokesman said.
Nearly 150 years ago, the nation’s attention was fixed on a remote area near the Oregon-California border, where about 50 Modoc Indian soldiers were fending off a thousand U.S. Army soldiers from within a fortress of lava beds. The Modoc War was a “David and Goliath war,” in the words of writer and historian Doug Foster. The six-month standoff that ended in 1873 was then the costliest American-Indian conflict in lives lost and money spent. But state Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, says broader awareness of the conflict — and subsequent execution of four Modoc Indians by the federal government — is needed.\
Oklahoma has settled a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over the OxyContin manufacturer’s role in the over-prescribing of opioids leading to a national spike in overdoses. The lawsuit mirrors one Oregon has against Purdue, alleging the company targeted the elderly with misleading marketing ploys. Oklahoma, one of about two-dozen states suing the makers of OxyContin, will get $270 million from Purdue after the settlement announced Tuesday, March 26. Kristina Edmunson, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Justice, declined to comment on whether the recent settlement could have an impact on Oregon’s case.
The Daily Astorian
Fishermen will get a brief shot at landing white sturgeon on the lower Columbia River beginning in May. Oregon and Washington state fishery managers announced Thursday that the river will be open for retention fishing of white sturgeon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from May 13 through June 5.
The recent “Polluted By Money” series included some of the best reporting The Oregonian/OregonLive team has done. The series shows Oregon needs a constitutional change to limit the size of donations wealthy individuals and organizations — such as corporations — can contribute to our elected leaders.We should also pay our state legislators a salary that reflects the value of their work to reduce their need to supplement their incomes with campaign cash. The current low salaries create a culture where hiring relatives and using donor cash to pay for dry cleaning is seen as normal, because it does not violate a law.Until we change Oregon’s constitution, we will have to accept the fact we have the best legislature money can buy.