Like so many past sessions, the legislature faces a huge revenue shortfall. Unlike most past sessions, we're talking about solutions to the decades-old causes of our perennial shortfalls. Early on, legislative leaders assigned small groups of us to work on different aspects of the problem. Now after weeks of meetings the bipartisan workgroups have revealed their recommendations.
The workgroup on government cost containment described how to improve government efficiency and address factors causing government costs to grow over time. Soon afterward, Legislative Revenue Officer Paul Warner presented the business tax reform framework recommended by the bipartisan tax reform workgroup, on which I served. The framework would scrap Oregon's Corporate Income Tax (CIT) and replace it with a Commercial Activities Tax (CAT). The CAT is a broad-based tax with a low rate that better reflects businesses' size and their impact on our economy than the CIT. The CAT is stable and much harder for big companies to avoid paying. Another advantage of the CAT is that it makes big out-of-state businesses who are now paying nothing pay their fair share.
Using the bipartisan framework as a guide, Speaker Kotek, top budget writer Rep. Nancy Nathanson, and I presented our recommendation for a CAT with a rate of 0.95% (less than 1%), to be paid by businesses with sales over $5 million, along with tax cuts to hold Oregonians harmless from any of the new tax possibly getting passed on to consumers.
Oregon's CIT once generated about one fifth of the tax dollars Oregon collects, but we depend on federal law to define taxable income. Relentless lobbying has left federal definitions riddled with loopholes. The CIT now generates only about one third of what it used to. Our proposal would restore business taxes to approximately the same portion of state tax receipts as the business taxes were 50 years ago.
Where will the money go?
The revenue will allow us boost K-12 education by $1 billion to reduce class sizes, hire school nurses and councilors, provide music, art and hands-on skills of career technical education, outdoor school, and keep kids in school instead of dropping out. It would let us stop the huge tuition increases public universities and community colleges have announced, and increase funds for need-based scholarships and Oregon Promise. It would help fill in gaps in our human services budget that now leave many Oregonians without basic services they need to grow up healthy and well. And we know failing to provide many of these services just generates even greater costs down the road as problems are left to fester, and become even more difficult to manage.
Replacing Oregon's CIT with a CAT is a good plan that will help our economy grow and provide the public schools, colleges and universities Oregonians need. We will need your help to get it passed. Please help secure a bright future for Oregon. Talk to your friends and neighbors – every legislator needs to hear from people in their district.
Can we do it? Yes.
Mid-Session Legislative Report
We have arrived at the half way point of the legislative session. Spring is here, and if you have not had a chance to visit the Capitol during this time of year I would highly recommend it. Oregon is famous for its flowering trees lining the Capitol mall, and many are now in full bloom. On dry days, petals drift gracefully in the breeze. It won't be long now until they've all fallen down.
Many of the simple bills have been passed out of the House, leaving the tough bills for further work. In the coming months, the legislature will have to have tough conversations about what values and priorities will be best for all Oregonians. Some of the major issues that have come forth are clean energy jobs, the housing crisis, rising prescription drug prices, funding basic services like our kids' schools, and tax reform. I look forward to hearing from my constituents about how we can address these issues in a balanced and forward looking way as conversations move ahead.
I held my first set of town halls of the session early in March. Senator Lee Beyer was able to join me at the events at the University of Oregon and in Creswell. I also had one in Harrisburg on my own. These town halls were some of the best attended I have ever had. Overall, I was able to meet with over 120 people about the issues facing our state. Some of the concerns brought forth were recreational immunity, keeping the Elliot Forest public, getting a quality funding level for education, and combatting regressive policies from the federal level.
I hope you will be able to join me for my next set of town halls. One will be April 18th at Coburg City Hall from 5:30 pm to 7 pm. The other will be April 19th at Randy's Café in Brownsville from 7 am to 8 am.
Corporations Attacking Oregonians
We're facing a huge revenue shortfall because of the deep property tax cuts of the 1990s, combined with corporations' growing use of exotic accounting mechanisms to avoid paying their fair share. The legislature has been busy working on a bipartisan plan to modernize our business tax system and get rid of all the scheming. We haven't even finished our plan yet, but it looks like wealthy corporations aren't going to wait and see what it is before they go to war against it. They're spending big on TV ads hoping to mislead you and your neighbors, in a bid to keep their taxes lower than yours forever.
Ninety-three percent of the state's budget goes to schools, healthcare, and public safety. When funding for these necessities remains inadequate, I cannot support more cuts so that corporations can pay their CEOs and shareholders even more. We must ask ourselves, will we allow corporations to pay less than they should, or will we invest in our kids and our future?
You are likely to see many more false claims about corporate tax reform legislation. Be aware the big corporations behind them aren't spending all this money on ads to help you or your family. They are doing it to avoid paying their fair share. If corporations could really pass along all their taxes on to you, there would be no reason for them to spend money on these ads. They are simply trying to mislead you to avoid paying their fair share for our kids' education.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any concerns you have. Email with your name and address is best!
Rep. Phil Barnhart's email is Rep.PhilBarnhart@oregonlegislature.gov, phone 541-607-9207.
The 2017 legislative session begun in earnest on February 1st. We need to move quickly to build support for our priority bills and educate ourselves about the decisions we'll be facing in our committees. This session I chair the Revenue and Joint Tax Credits Committees, and serve on the Energy and Environment Committee.
There are many issues, both recurring and brand new that Oregon's 79th Legislative Assembly will wrestle with. This session I have responsibility for major revenue bills, which constitutionally must begin in the House. In addition, there will be a major push to move Oregon's economy forward while significantly reducing air and water pollution, areas I am working on as well. Finally, the ideas emanating from Washington DC have many of us focused on how to protect Oregonians from weakening federal protections when it comes to voting and minority rights, labor and workplace fairness, and the environment.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE COMING MONTHS
As usual, the ever widening gap between property tax revenue and school funding needs bigger and bigger budgets from the state general fund. Because of the huge property tax cuts in the 1990s, mostly on business and industrial property, we continually struggle to pay for the most basic services: schools, healthcare, and public safety. I'm working with my colleagues to find an agreement on how to raise the revenue we need. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President are working with business and labor groups to reach a consensus on revenue, but no agreements have yet been reached.
I am working on bills that deal with electric vehicles, civil rights, and of course taxes. I am also very interested in bills that are going to deal with fair and affordable housing, environmental protections, the popular vote, and reducing air pollution.
The Co-Chairs of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee just released a plan (found at https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/lfo/Documents/2017%20Co-Chair%20Document.pdf) that would close the budget gap by cutting services if there is no new revenue. I've already heard from a number of constituents concerned about the cuts, many of which are extremely painful and destructive for our citizens, our economy, and our future.
YOUR CHANCE TO WEIGH IN ON THE CONVERSATION
The Co-Chairs of the Ways and Means Committee this session are be Senator Richard Devlin and our own Representative Nancy Nathanson. They will be holding listening sessions around the state about the budget and Oregon's needs. Those who care about providing a quality education, a comprehensive health care system, and many other critical state functions must speak up to make sure state leaders know these things are important enough to have taxes that pay for them. I'm committed to fighting for the needs of students, low-income seniors, working families, and other vulnerable people in our community, and I hope you will be able to join me at the listening session, when we hope to hear from you, in Eugene February 25th. One among many, this session will be held at Building 17, The Forum, on the Lane Community College Main Campus, 4000 East 30th Avenue, in Eugene.
This session will be vital to future generations of Oregonians by finding a way to fund our basic services. I am going to spend most of my time and effort in the coming months on raising revenue to fund a more adequate budget. Please contact me at my new email address if you have any issues you would like to bring to my attention during the legislative session. Whatever method you use to communicate with us, the volume of mail we are getting is very large for my small staff. Please include your email address if you would like a reply. We welcome all your comments and ideas.
Rep. Barnhart's Legislative Report – End of 2016 Session
The 2016 Session lasted 32 days and accomplished much for Oregonians. To complete our work within the 35-day Constitutional limit, nearly all of the preparation was done well in advance, with bills introduced and assigned to committees before the session even began. While some worried complex legislation might be rushed, the advanced preparation and limited scope made for a fast-paced but very manageable session.
As with any short session, much of our work was dictated by immediate circumstances: observers expected Oregonians to enact two major reforms through the November ballot: raising the minimum wage and bringing an end to the use of coal-fired electricity in our state. With major reforms it's helpful for the legislature to work through the details so all sides can weigh in and we can consider impacts throughout the state and the economy. In the end, we designed a measured, thoughtful approach to both raising the wage and ending coal, and I'm convinced these laws are an improvement over the initiatives (see more detail on those reforms below).
Another urgent demand on our attention was skyrocketing rents in urban areas. In response, we passed historic reforms to boost affordable housing construction, we required that rental agreements be fairer to tenants, and we increased the Earned Income Tax Credit subsidy for working families with young children.
Finally, preparations already underway for the 2021 World Track and Field Championships in Eugene required our urgent attention too, as that contest looms closer. Decisions about how we pay for tourism infrastructure needed to be made in time to support preparations for the Championships, which will be the most important sports event in Oregon's history, and offer a unique opportunity to nurture Oregon's vital tourism industry.
Here is some more detail on the major bills we passed.
Environment: With the passage of the "Coal to Clean" bill, Oregon's electricity will be about 80% fossil fuel free by 2030, a huge improvement over today. By allowing utilities to install electric vehicle (EV) charging systems in apartment and condo parking structures, we removed a huge bottleneck for the adoption of EVs by most Oregonians. It will not only clean up electricity production, but transportation fuels too as we use more EVs and fewer gas powered cars and light trucks.
Working Families: The first state to enact a mandatory minimum wage law in 1913, Oregon is again at the forefront. As I mentioned, ballot measures were poised to abruptly increase the minimum wage without regard for the impact on small businesses. We designed a more careful approach, raising the wage gradually over six years and setting up a tiered system so wages will rise more in expensive Portland, less along the rest of the I-5 Corridor (including Lane and Linn Counties), and least in rural Oregon. This will give business time to adjust to a wage that allows full-time workers to afford basic necessities.
Growing jobs: We made it easier to build or grow industrial facilities on rural land, helping foster the kind of investments that bring stable, family-wage jobs. And, we passed a bill to help clean up and redevelop contaminated lots (such as former gas stations or dry cleaners), many of which are eyesores and a drain on neighborhoods. Many small cities in my district have problem lots like this, and I'm hopeful we'll now see some of these long-festering sites put to productive use. Additionally, more funding for tourism marketing will spur tourist spending and job creation in the hospitality industry and throughout Oregon.
I expect to have more to say about the session in future Legislative Reports. Enough for today.
As always, I greatly appreciate the calls, emails, and visits to the Capitol during session that help me understand your needs and the effects of proposed legislation. We end up with better results because of your input and criticism of pending legislation.
PS: If you have an idea for 2017 legislation, now is the time to let me know.
Rep. Barnhart can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at (503) 986-1411
February 2016 Legislative Report, 2/9/2016
By State Representative Phil Barnhart
The short session of the legislature is already well underway. We only have a month left to complete the business of the House this year and there is a lot to get done. There are still a number of bills in my committees including: 18 bills in the House Revenue Committee and 18 bills in the House Rules Committee.
The deadline for passing these bills out of committee, on to the floor, and through the Senate will be on March 6th and that means that passing these bills through committee and voting on them in the House requires that we move quickly so that the Senate has time for them to consider and pass them.
The Minimum Wage
Many people around the state have contacted me about the minimum wage bill that is currently being considered in the legislature. The bill currently being considered by the Senate is SB 1532. Most of the people who write in are concerned that wages have fallen well behind prices and that Oregon should work to correct that imbalance. The current bill will gradually increase the minimum wage to 13.50 per hour by 2022, and then ties the increased minimum wage to the CPI to adjust for future cost of living increases. The progression of the increase for Lane and Linn Counties is as follows:
|July 2023||+ CPI|
The urban areas of Portland will have the final wage of $14.75 while rural areas will have a final wage of $12.50. After 2022 the wage will be adjusted for increasing costs of living annually.
Bills For which I am Chief Sponsor
During the Short Session each member can submit only two bills for consideration by the legislature.
House Bill 4062 would establish a tax on electronic cigarettes. This bill is aimed at preventing minors from becoming addicted to nicotine. Studies show that minors are responsive to increased costs, and less likely to take up a habit the greater its expense. The bill is currently in the Health Care Committee and had a public hearing held on February 3rd.
House Bill 4063 would change the way that the kicker is returned to taxpayers. Instead of the majority of the money going to the wealthy, the kicker would evenly distributed among all income taxpayers in the state of Oregon. The kicker is often accompanied by a recession this will create a much needed boost for lower income families in a tough economic climate. Lower income families are much more likely to spend the money received from the kicker than the high income earners that receive the greatest return. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Revenue and had a Public hearing on February 8th.
Other Bills I Am Sponsoring This Session
House Bill 4068: This is the most important bill of this session and is referred to as the Healthy Climate Bill. The bill would change current statewide emission goals to be more stringent statewide goals as well as create a carbon market exchange. The market exchange is modeled after the successful California model. This bill is currently before the Energy and Environment committee with a subsequent referral to Ways and Means.
House Bill 4001: Protects renters by making it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants without cause. The bill would require that a landlord provide at least 90 days' notice before a rent increase and prohibits all rent increases during the first year of occupancy. The bill is currently before the House Committee on Human Services and Housing and has a work session scheduled for February 5th.
House Bill 4034: Would requires the Oregon global warming Commission to evaluate how black carbon emissions from forest fires contribute to global warming and require that the state develop a strategy to curb black carbon emissions through wildfire mitigation practices.
House Bill 4064: Would create an affordable housing mortgage loan fund that will be loaned to qualified non-profit organizations to spend on the construction and housing of low income residents. The bill had a public hearing on February 3rd and a work session is scheduled for February 10th.
House Bill 4071: Would allow access to the state health insurance exchange and establishes a program to provide financial assistance for healthcare premiums and out-of-pocket costs for Marshall Islanders. The Marshall Islanders are a group of people displaced by US nuclear testing during the Cold War and reside in the state of Oregon legally.
House Bill 4082: Would expand the crime of promoting prostitution to include receiving goods and services derived from prostitution activity. The bill has passed the House and is on its way to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 4086: Would allow employees that become unemployed due to an employer lockout to collect unemployment equivalent to what they would receive from their most recent unemployment benefit claim. It also charges the employer for the cost of the temporary lockout benefit.
House Bill 4090: Would allow for homeowners to conserve water without violating their community bylaws and being subject to their penalties. It has had a public hearing held and has a possible work session for February 9th
House Bill 4122: Would allow for local governments to inhibit or prevent the use of seed or seed products for purposes of protecting products that are not genetically engineered from the adverse impacts of genetically engineered seed or seed products.
House Bill 4125: Would require that the Oregon Health Authority to analyze ground water contaminant data and educate people in areas with contaminated groundwater. The bill is currently in the Energy and Environment Committee with a public hearing and possible work session scheduled for February 9th.
House Bill 4127: Would make statutory changes to achieve gender neutral language regarding individuals in a marital relationship. This bill has passed the House.
House Bill 4147: Would require that purchasers of a firearm cannot do so until a full background check has been completed by the Oregon State Police Department. Currently the seller of a firearm is allowed to make the exchange after a three day waiting period even if the police background check is incomplete.
House Joint Measure 201: This measure calls for a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the constitution to address the deficiency of our campaign finance system.
Senate Bill 1578: Would Increase the number of tax credits available for certified film production development contributions for this fiscal year.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 207: Honors the Portland Timbers for their first Major League Soccer victory last year.
There are 275 measures filed for the 2016 Session. Some very important to all Oregonians and some only to a few. I hope that you will all continue to contact me with your ideas and concerns as we work hard this session to pass important legislation for Oregonians.
December 2015 Legislative Report, 12/21/2015
Rep. Barhart accepts OSPIRG's petition demanding action to stop overuse of antibiotics, Oct 22nd 2015
With the 2015 legislative session shrinking in the rear-view mirror and the short 2016 legislative session looming, I'm hopeful for significant progress on the pressing issues facing our state this February.
My biggest priority in 2015 was to make Oregon part of the solution to catastrophic climate change, and I'm still working hard to move us forward. I'm among more than 300 public officials who have signed onto the national goal of achieving 50% clean energy by 2030.
And there is new hope for progress in the Oregon Legislature. I introduced House Bill 3470, which would have set up a cap and trade program to encourage polluters to reduce emissions. Since the 2015 session ended, I've been delighted to see new legislative supporters step up. Two other Lane County legislators, Sen. Lee Beyer and Sen. Chris Edwards, have agreed to introduce a bill in 2016 similar to that bill. To say I'm excited is an understatement.
The 2016 short session will be the third regular legislative session ever to take place in an even-numbered year in Oregon, following the 2010 vote in favor of having annual sessions (before that, legislators only met in odd-numbered years). Under the Oregon Constitution, the 2016 session is limited to 35 days, which helps us focus on what's most important, but also makes it very tough to do big things. But given the urgency of the problems we're facing, I'm optimistic. Please talk to your friends and neighbors about these issues, because hearing from their constituents will help other lawmakers decide to vote yes and not wait another year.
In the long session, lawmakers can introduce as many bills as they like, but not in the short session. We will be allowed to introduce only two bills. I've requested:
Have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope to see you at one of my January town halls!
won an important ruling last month that may have saved lots of money
for schools and local governments. Earlier this year I helped lead an
effort along with Sen. Hass to bring extremely fast gigabit internet
service (such as Google Fiber) to Oregon, creating a significant tax
incentive for building these networks. A few weeks ago, the Public
Utility Commission (PUC) deliberated on a tremendously important
decision about how to set up the program, but PUC staff misunderstood
one of the words in the bill.
PUC staff proposed would have made it far too easy for existing cable
and telecom companies to get these incentives without having to do all
the work that was intended. The error may have cost taxpayers millions
without motivating companies to serve as many customers as we intended,
and would have created other serious problems. When I couldn't persuade
them to fix it, I reached out to the chair of the PUC and attended the
rulemaking hearing on November 3rd to plead for changes. My
testimony helped convince the Commission to fix the problem, and the PUC
approved corrected rules on November 5th.
House Revenue Committee of which I'm chair heard reports about
effective personal income tax rates, how the Department of Revenue
handles taxpayers who aren't able to pay their tax debt, and revenue
generated by liquor sales. Click for more details, including video of the hearing (for video, click the near the top of the linked page). We'll
be back in Salem again Jan. 13-15 to do necessary legislative business
in preparation for the beginning of the short legislative session Feb.
More Jobs in Oregon
Good news for job-seekers. Nearly 10,000 jobs were created in Oregon last month, and the unemployment rate continues to fall.
Public Employee Retirement
Schools, Cities, Counties, and other local governments
who participate in the Public Employee Retirement (PERS) system will soon be
experiencing higher costs. PERS Director Steve Rodeman has been criscrossing Oregon to educate PERS employers about why costs are going
up. There are lots of opinions about PERS costs, but what has been often
missing is data and statistics on how the program has functioned over time and how
we got where we are today. Director Rodeman’s presentation fills that gap.
I'm having a series of town halls in January. Please come share what's on your mind and hear about what I'm expecting for the Feb. 2016 Session.
EUGENE -- Jan 4th, 6:00PM, Lane Community College Downtown Campus, 101 W 10th Ave, Eugene
CRESWELL -- Jan 5th, 7:00AM, Creswell Coffee Co, 116 Melton Rd, Creswell
COBURG -- Jan 5th, 6:00PM, Coburg City Hall, 91136 N Willamette St, Coburg
BROWNSVILLE -- Jan 6th, 7:00AM, Randy's Main Street Coffee, 250 N. Main St, Brownsville
UNIVERSITY OF OREGON -- Jan 9th, 11:00AM, University of Oregon Campus (stay tuned for exact location)
Going Somewhere for the Holidays?
Don't be surprised by inclement weather! Check road conditions before you go using Tripcheck.
This time of year we often pay a bit more attention to the less fortunate and many of us are moved to contribute to charitable causes. Oregon's Attorney General has just released advice for maximizing the impact of your charitable dollars.
Oregon's population just hit 4 million people, with most of the growth happening in Oregon's cities. See more.
Housing Supply Report
Housing shortages in Oregon's growing cities have caused recent massive increases in the cost to rent or buy a home. The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis just published their Housing Inventory, and it has some good news for renters. Multi-family construction has reached pre-recession levels, which should ease pressure on apartment rental rates.
900 Court St.
Salem, OR 97301