There were times during this legislative session when I was so frustrated that I wrote scathing emails to you all about the workings of the legislature. The TFO Steering Committee was wise enough to nix each of them. As it turns out, in many ways it’s been an excellent session, not just for tax issues, but also for a good number of social, cultural and political issues as well.

But TFO is about taxes and here’s the low down on what’s happened this session on taxes.

#1 There will be an additional $1 billion per year for education under the Student Success Actunless the referral by Oregon Manufacturers and Commerce gets the “no” votes they want, which seems unlikely. But we will be asking you to help fight it if they collect enough signatures to get it on the ballot, and we certainly want to say “think before you ink” if a signature gatherer asks for your signature.

#2 The efforts to create carve-outs from that bill almost all failed, whether for Intel/Amazon, for farmers or for “essential items” (think paper towels). Homebuilders did get a small concession; they will subtract from their income 15% of the labor costs of subcontractors.

#3 An exceptionally complicated bill was put forward by the Oregon Business Development Department, aka as “Business Oregon.” The original bill made numerous changes, some good and some we fought, to five of Oregon’s property tax exemptions, employee and corporate income tax rebates, and economic development programs. The bill essentially died. There will likely by an interim workgroup to address the issues.

#4 Bills to give a tax break to distillers both died. The fact that we have a break for wineries makes it easier to ask for one for distillers. The solution, of course, is to end the break for wineries, not open one for distillers. 

#5 Subsidies for short line railroads bill was improved. The maximum benefits for the world’s biggest short line rail company, Genesee and Wyoming were reduced from $2,275,000 per year to $650,000. We’d still rather have seen more changes, but it was greatly improved.

#6 The EITC refundable tax credit was increased by 1% of the federal credit, a small change, but undoubtedly significant to recipients.

#7 The 529 college savings plan changes requested by the Treasurer’s office got considerably better. It will now encourage savings by lower income Oregonians, changes that were paid for by reducing benefits for wealthy savers.

#8 PERS reforms proved the legislature is willing to address the issue. The last bill that passed was in 2013. It is time to work on this problem. 

#9 Tobacco and vaping taxes will be on the ballot in November of 2020. We’re proud to be on the list of supporters. Tobacco taxes will be joined on that ballot by a constitutional referral to allow campaign finance reform. That’s important too; it’s clear that contributions speak in the Oregon legislature’s lawmaking.

# 10 The property tax break for home sharing passed both houses, after some limits were placed on it. Since the bill only allows local communities to implement the idea, when we hear of cities or counties considering trying it, we’ll want to help design a true pilot study with stronger guidelines than the legislature put in place.

What died…for this session?

Any subsidy for distillers, additional tax credits for the maintenance and operation of agricultural housing, doubling the amount of the crop donation tax credit, a second brownfield remediation tax credit, a tax credit for teaching nursing in rural areas of the state, and a dozen other new tax break ideas. Unfortunately bills diverting 30% of tourist’s lodging taxes to workforce housing and revisions to the mortgage interest deduction (removing the deduction for high income taxpayers and second homes) also didn’t make it through.

Want to Help?

We’re already had a retreat to begin plotting what TFO will work on next. Both the Senate Finance and Revenue and the House Revenue Committee spend most of their time each session talking about giving money away through the tax code rather than raising revenue. But we’ve a long list of potential money raisers we’ll be exploring between now and the February 2020 session. We’d love more help. If you’re intrigued, please email or call 503 810-6654.