OFS Legislative Update. Budget and taxes.

By Terry Witt & Paulette Pyle
Oregonians for Food and Shelter
Legislative Update 2/27,

It took seven weeks into the 2009 Oregon legislative session to really start feeling the frenzy and concerns that typically appear during every session.  Bills are now dropping like flies as the deadline for submitting new bills to Legislative Council (LC) is looming.  OFS has identified a few new bills of direct or potential impact on pesticide bills, but fully expect many more to come.

After sitting through numerous revenue and budget hearings this week, everyone in the State Capitol has no illusions about what the State’s fiscal picture looks like.   It’s BAD!

With Ways & Means Co-Chairs having to fill an $800 million budget hole just to rebalance the 2007-2009 budget over the next FOUR MONTHS, the choices are slim.  The Full Ways & Means Committee will try to make the best of a bad situation by choosing to cut $300 million from state programs, doing a “sweep” of reserves and fund balances from most programs across state agencies, and using dollars from the federal stimulus package.   Of the state funds that were swiped from ODA,  $750,000 in fee moneys were taken from the base pesticide program and put into the General Fund to fund “who knows what?”

As always, there are certain lawmakers who are looking for ways to raise revenue so they can spend more.  In past sessions they typically focused on “new” programs, however this year their efforts are diverted to “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  It is interesting to note, nearly two months into this session that the priority has been on how to rebalance the current biennium (2007-2009), with the task of adopting a balanced budget for 2009-2011 just now beginning.  There will be many programs that legislators and their constituents thought were “do or die” needs passed in past sessions that will be sitting on the shelf to balance the 2009-2011 budget.   The current projected deficit is now about $3 Billion.

If there is good news in all of this, it is that the “eager beaver,” tax, spend and regulate legislators and lobbyists are held at bay.  Also lobbyists and legislators are finding friends they didn’t know they had to build new coalitions.  Dire economic conditions tend to pull everyone together to focus on “need-to-have” essential rather than “nice-to-have” wish list.


• Higher minimum corporate taxes. The Corporate minimum tax hike will most likely become a reality.  The questions are how and how much?   A diverse group within the business community is advocating that the increase be set at $300 with no impact on S-corps and LLCs.  Attention should be directed to HB 2199 and HB 2070.
• Tax Expenditures appear to be in play, i.e. the Business Energy Tax Credit. This program has worked better than anticipated racking up $200 million in credits which reduces state tax revenue to the General Fund.
• House Revenue held a batch of hearings this week on tax bills that will assuredly become vehicles as the session winds to a close to fund programs that are judged to be “absolutely” necessary to stimulate Oregon’s economy and therefore increased tax revenue back to the General Fund.
• Major funding shifts within agencies to replace General Fund dollars with “Other Fund” dollars which can be translated as “higher fees.

NOTE: This is only highlights of Oregonians for  Food and Shelter’s Weekly Update.  To learn more about Oregonians for Food and Shelter go here.

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