Image for Income Tax Kicker Keeps Growing Larger
The projected Oregon personal income tax kicker now reaches $5.6 billion, which is three times larger than the previous record kicker refund.

State Workers Keep Working Remotely, OSU Keeps Losing Opponents

The personal income kicker just keeps getting larger, state agency workers keep working remotely out of state and Oregon State University keep losing conference opponents.

Now predicted to reach $5.6 billion, the kicker has risen on a tide of good economic news that allowed Oregon lawmakers to bump up spending instead of making spending cuts during the 2023 legislative session. The May revenue forecast projected a $5.5 billion kicker refund, almost twice as large as the $3 billion projection a year ago and three times larger than the previous biggest kicker refund.

Oregon income taxpayers will benefit from kicker refunds on their 2023 state tax return. Taxpayers with adjusted gross income of between $28,000 and $52,400 will receive refunds of $1,000. Taxpayers with AGI between $52,400 and $98,200 will qualify for a $1,900 refund. The highest-earning taxpayers will get back $44,600.

Final kicker payouts will be certified following the next revenue forecast in October.

Remote Workers
Governor Kotek ended travel reimbursement for state employees working remotely out of state but that hasn’t dissuaded out-of-state remote work, which has gone up not down in recent months, according to the Department of Administrative Services.

Kotek’s order became effective September 1 that denies travel reimbursement to state workers returning to Oregon for work purposes. Airfare, train fare, airport parking, lodging, meals, mileage to airport or train depot and parking costs at the central workplace or alternate workplace are ineligible for reimbursement under Kotek’s policy.

As recently as February, there were 432 state employees working remotely. Now the number has grown to 496. No data is available on where remote state workers live, though it’s likely many may live as close as Clark County, Washington.

Pac-12 Dissolution
Ten teams, including the University of Oregon, have deserted the Pac-12, leaving Oregon State University and Washington State University as the lone remaining members of the Conference of Champions. Stanford and the University of California were the latest two Pac-12 members to leave, electing last week to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.

OSU and WSU officials tried to persuade Stanford and Cal to stay in an attempt to preserve the conference and its Power 5 status. That now seems unlikely. More likely, OSU and WSU may pursue membership in the Mountain West Conference that includes Boise State, San Diego State, Fresno State, San Jose State, Utah State, Colorado State and the Air Force Academy. Then there is the intriguing possibility OSU and WSU convince the Mountain West Conference to join a reformed Pac-12, creating a conference with members from the Rockies to the Paciific Ocean.

The Mountain West Conference is hardly a stranger to realignment. When USC and UCLA bolted the Pac-12 for the Big 10, San Diego State was courted as a potential replacement, precipitating a dispute over whether it committed to leave or just explored leaving. San Diego State also was involved in will-it-go-or-will-it-stay moment in 2013. The conference has flirted with Gonzaga to be a non-football conference member and Hawaii as a football-only member. In 2010, Boise State agreed to join the conference, filling a slot vacated by Utah which joined the Pac-12. The Mountain West Conference officially began in 1999.

Legislative Staff Contract Reached
Two years after the forming the nation’s first legislative staff union, an agreement has been reached. Details of the deal weren’t immediately available and Justin Roberts of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 89, which represents  legislative aides, encouraged his clients not to engage in public discussions.

Forming a union for legislative aides, many of whom work part-time during legislative sessions and can be family members of legislators, was initially questioned. A legal challenge failed to block formation of the union.

In bargaining, legislative aides sought better compensation and the ability to cash out unused vacation time. House Speaker Dan Rayfield and Senate President Rob Wagner led negotiations with the legislative aide bargaining unit.

Oregon Red Flag Law Under-Utilized
A state audit concluded Oregon’s Red Flag law, approved in 2017 to remove firearms from people who pose threats to others or themselves, has been underutilized because of a lack of awareness by the public and police officers. Since its inception, the law has only been used 560 times.

The Secretary of State audit also cited barriers such as language, paperwork and lack of familiarity with the court system. “Many of these barriers are more acutely felt by lower-income Oregonians and other historically underserved groups,” auditors found.

The audit said that when used the law has been consistent with legislative intent. Between 2018 and 2022, judges agreed to remove firearms in 78 percent of filings. Most of the Extreme Risk Protection Orders applied to family or household members, according to the audit. Most of the executed orders were for white males between 18 and 45.

“In Oregon, older white men are at the highest risk of firearm suicide and young African Americans have the highest risk of death by firearm homicide,” the audit says. “According to data from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, veterans in Oregon died by suicide at nearly twice the rate of the general population, with more than two-thirds using a firearm.”

Between 2018 and 2021, Oregon’s homicide by firearm rate was 55 percent below the national average while the state’s suicide by firearm rate 42 percent higher than the national average.

CBS Features Greater Idaho
CBS’ Sunday Morning opened with  segment on the Greater Idaho movement spurred by Eastern Oregonians frustrated by Democratic control of state government.

What that means politically, says Mike McCarter of La Pine, is that the blue part of Western Oregon always outweighs the Eastern part’s Rred. “In talking to a legislator over in the Portland area, I said, ‘The legislature doesn’t listen to our people, our representatives over here.’ He said, ‘Whoa whoa whoa, stop, Mike. We hear what they’re staying. We just out-vote you.'”

The Sunday segment followed up a similar segment a year ago when nine Oregon counties had voted to explore secession from Oregon to Idaho. McCarter said 12 counties have voted in favor of the idea with another county scheduled to vote next May.

The segment mentioned opposition to the Greater Idaho movement by the nonprofit Western States Center, which says secession is a “radical change” that could raises taxes and cut wages. The nonprofit also links the movement to white nationalists. Their basic message is “If rural conservatives don’t like Oregon’s urban liberal leanings,  don’t move the border, move themselves instead.”