State leaders learned last week they have more cash to spend, tried to revive campaign finance limits and organized a blue-chip task force to compete for semiconductor manufacturing expansion after losing a $20 billion Intel facility to Ohio.
During week two of the short 2022 session, bills advanced authorizing bonuses for behavioral health workers, placing limits on firing school superintendents without cause and allowing college athletes to benefit financially from their images on jerseys, playing cards and video games.
The 2022 gubernatorial race took more unusual twists as anti-tax warrior Bill Sizemore resurfaced to enter the GOP primary, Phil Knight donated $250,000 to Betsy Johnson’s independent campaign and Stan Pulliam, the mayor of Sandy and a Republican hopeful, acknowledged he and his wife joined a swinger’s club to explore extramarital relationships.
Monday marked a key deadline when bills must be scheduled for work session or die for the session.
Another Strong Revenue Forecast
The latest in a string of revenue bonanzas forecast another $800 million in state revenue, resulting from upticks in corporate and individual taxes, as well as higher lottery receipts and estate taxes. Revenue estimates now exceed what was projected in the 2021-2023 state budget by $2.7 billion or 10 percent. Personal income tax revenue is projected to exceed $21 billion for the biennium.
Ballooning state revenues will likely trigger income tax kicker refunds in 2024 of nearly $1 billion. The corporate income tax kicker is expected to send $634 million to sustain school funding during economic down times.
Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, said increased revenue projections will allow investments in schools, small businesses, behavioral health and working families. Legislative Republicans said the extra revenue should go toward reducing taxes, combating violent crime and increasing forest resiliency. Personal income tax kicker refunds this year will total $1.9 billion.
State economists hinted bullish revenue outlooks will continue past this year, amid a robust US economy and despite inflationary worries. Higher wages, they noted, generate more income tax revenue.
Campaign Finance Limits in Limbo
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan disqualified three campaign finance initiatives, citing drafting omissions. However, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum certified the language in the initiatives, setting up a challenge to the Oregon Supreme Court.
Senator Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, jumped into the fray introducing an amendment that contains provisions in the sidelined initiatives. The amendment to Senate Bill 1526 would limit the size of political contributions in state elections and set up public financing options. Wagner’s amendment doesn’t limit how much “small donor committees” could raise from people who contribute $250 or less. His amendment also doesn’t address “dark money” groups that don’t identify contributors.
The Supreme Court could allow the three initiatives (43, 44 and 45) to go the ballot in the November general election. If approved, Wagner’s amendment would be subject to voter approval at the same time. In any case, the 2022 gubernatorial primary and general elections will not face campaign spending limits.
Getting Chips Back in the Semiconductor Game
Stung by losing out to Ohio for a major new Intel chip manufacturing complex, Oregon government and business leaders will form a task force to position the state to cash in on the $60 billion that chip makers are expected to invest to bolster domestic production and supply chains.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden proposed the idea in December at the annual Business Summit and, along with Governor Brown and PGE CEO Maria Pope, will chair the task force. Members will divide into six groups to assess industrial land availability, workforce development, tax incentives, regulations, relevant research, industry supply chains and investment.
Task force members include Rukaiyah Adams, chief investment officer for Meyer Memorial Trust; Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, D; Sam Brooks, chair of the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs; Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway; Robert Camarillo, executive secretary of Oregon Building Trades; Sophorn Cheang, executive director of Business Oregon; Monique Claiborne, CEO of Greater Portland Inc.; Pat Daniels, executive director of Constructing Hope; David Drinkward, CEO of Hoffman Construction; Monica Enand, CEO of Zapproved; Ed Feser, provost of Oregon State University; state Senator Tim Knopp, R-Bend; Mark Mitsui, president of Portland Community College; Senator Jeff Merkley; Nagi Naganathan, president of Oregon Institute of Technology; Stephen Percy, president of Portland State University; Metro Council President Lynn Peterson; Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis; Sue Richards, the global head of printing for HP Inc.; Curtis Robinhold, executive director of the Port of Portland; Lisa Skari, president of Mount Hood Community College; and Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall.
House Bill 4004 to authorize salary increases and provider bonuses for behavioral health workers moved out of committee to Ways and Means with an estimated price tag of $150-$200 million. A work session will be held this week on House Bill 4126 that prohibits employer actions against unionizing efforts of behavioral health workers.
The Senate by a 16-7 vote approved Senate Bill 1521 to limit the ability of school boards to fire school superintendents without cause. The measure, which now heads to the House, requires a 12-month notice and came in response to superintendent firings for apparent political reasons.
Governor Brown has agreed to shrink funding for her Future Ready Oregon initiative (Senate Bill 1545) aimed at workforce training for historically underserved populations for positions in manufacturing, health care and technology sectors. There is still an effort to broaden the business sectors included in the bill program.
One of the session’s most controversial measures, House Bill 4002 that would phase in overtime pay for agricultural workers, received a hearing. A work session is scheduled for Monday where several amendments are expected.
House Bill 4141 to phase in a requirement to replace petroleum diesel with renewable diesel received a hearing. The hearing was carried over this week because there were so many witnesses. Proponents contend renewable diesel, which is a drop-in substitute, can sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. Opponents worry about adequate supplies and rising prices. Amendments have been proposed to turn the mandate into a study group.
Minority advocates, Service Employees International Union and Portland Business Alliance are supporting Senate Bill 1566 that would raise legislative salaries to around $57,000 per year.
Legislator Pay Hike
Minority advocates, the Service Employees International Union and the Portland Business Alliance are supporting Senate Bill 1566 that would raise legislative salaries to around $57,000 per year, qualify for $1,000 per month for childcare and pay $151 per diem when the legislature is in session. Advocates say higher pay will make it possible for a wider range of Oregonians to serve in the legislature. The $57,000 figure was used because the state’s 2020 mean wage was $56,880
Photo Contest for Latest Blue Book
Photos that capture what is “uniquely Oregon” are being solicited by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office to adorn the 2023-2024 edition of the Blue Book, the official state fact book that has been published since 1911. “Send us your bold, eye-catching images that showcase people, places, events, scenery – if it’s made in Oregon, about Oregon, and by an amateur photographer, we want to see it.” Two images will be selected for the front and back of the new edition. Find out more about the competition, which is underway with an October 22 deadline for submissions, at https://sos.oregon.gov/blue-book/Pages/about-contest.aspx.