Budget Town Hall with Lane County Legislators on Cinco de Mayo
It has been a big week in Salem. I worked hard to prepare two bills the House passed this week: The Estate Tax revision to bring the law into the 21st century, and the revision of the 40 year old Senior Property Tax Deferral Law that will help keep long-time residents in their homes. On Wednesday Republicans and Democrats each released their versions of the redistricting maps for Oregon's Congressional, State Senate and State House districts (click here to see the two options). Over the next few weeks there will be hearings in the Capitol in the hopes of reaching a final plan for redistricting. Thursday, the May Revenue Forecast was presented in the Revenue Committee I co-chair (
read a summary here). Last week, we held a budget town hall at LCC with attendance of almost 200 interested citizens. This Saturday, May 14th at noon Rep. Terry Beyer and I will host a town hall in the Springfield City Council Chambers. See you there!
Upcoming Town Halls
Let's Talk about the 2011 Legislative Session!
Join Rep. Terry Beyer and Rep. Phil Barnhart
Saturday, May 14th
at 12 p.m.
Springfield Town Hall, Council Chambers
225 Fifth Street, Springfield, Oregon 97477
Growth Opportunities for Oregon Companies
Business owners: come see the International "Road Show" highlighting growth possibilities for local businesses.
May 16th-20th in Portland, Salem and Eugene. Find out more
Rail Money for Oregon and Washington
U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood announced May 9th, $2 billion for high-speed rail to boost jobs and transform travel. Oregon and Washington will receive $16 million for this purpose. Read press release
HB 2825 passed out of the Senate General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee on May 11th and is now going to be voted on by the Senate. Read the bill
The House Revenue Committee, which I co-chair, has become known around the Capitol as the “wonk” committee. It’s the place where complex and hard-to-understand bills are routine.
We find ourselves working on important bills that help things function well and as intended. For example, in 2009 we participated in a complete rewrite of Oregon’s Bond Bill at the request of the Oregon Law Commission. The changes made the existing law clearer and more certain. Reducing risks for bond buyers resulted in lower costs and lower interest rates for taxpayers ultimately saving many millions of dollars in interest payments!
This year we are working to completely rewrite the Oregon Estate Tax Law which over time has become very difficult to use. The bill recently passed out of the House. It would substantially reduce the number of estates subject to tax by raising the value of exempt estates from $1M to $1.5M and adjusting the rates on the larger estates to be fairer to the smaller estates while overall remaining revenue neutral. The big pay off will be in making it easier for estate planning, reducing attorney and accountant’s time and fees.
This session we are also averting a crisis in the Senior Property Tax Deferral Law. Since the 70’s, low income seniors and disabled persons have been able to defer property taxes on their owner occupied homes until the property is sold. The program is intended to keep people in their homes where they tend to have longer and happier lives.
The deferral system had gotten badly out of hand resulting in a complete emptying of the revolving account. To return the program to solvency we will tighten up the requirements for participation, cap new applications, and borrow some money for the revolving fund for a few years from the Treasury. This bill passed unanimously in the House and is now headed to the Senate. Breathe a sigh of relief that we will continue to help low income seniors and the disabled stay in their homes without cost to the taxpayers.
Heading to the Ways and Means Committee from the Revenue Committee is a bill to make sure that all users pay their share to maintain our roads and highways. The Transportation and Economic Development Committee, co-chaired by Representative Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) and Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) have spent much effort getting the bill ready. After a few more small changes the bill will be ready for the floor. Remember Oregon’s Constitution requires that all users pay their share. This bill will make it easier and more likely that electric vehicles along with very high mileage plug-in vehicles will participate fairly.
These three areas, estate taxes, the senior property tax deferral, and road use fees, are not exciting but they are challenging and necessary for Oregon.
An evenly split house will not act on everything we ought to do, but it will get many pieces of important legislation through. I expect and hope that these three will pass with significant, bi-partisan majorities in both chambers. If you read this report all the way to the end, perhaps you are a policy wonk too! Stay Tuned.