OFS Legislative Report on PURS, Ag funding, Pesticide bills, water laws and new taxes
By Oregonians For Food and Shelter,
WEEK 20: This week marked another milestone in the 2009 session, as the deadline for both Senate and House substantive committees to finish business was May 28. Now much of the attention will shift to Ways & Means, as budgets and funding for bills with a fiscal become the priority. That does not mean, however, that further monkey business cannot occur to amend or “gut-n-stuff” legislation still in the pipeline, as Rules and Revenue Committees in both chambers will remain open as a place to handle such bill manipulations.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s budget of $87.4 million was sent from Ways & Means with a “Do Pass” recommendation to the floor on May 29. From the pesticides perspective, PURS will not be funded for 2009-11 and funding was also eliminated for the pesticide outreach program primarily aimed at educating the general, urban public. Not funding PURS freed up approximately $450,000 per year from pesticide registration fees, allowing PARC (Pesticide Analytical Response Center) and two additional field staff in the pesticides program to be funded.
The primary function of these two limited-duration specialist positions will be pesticide compliance. One investigator will be located in the Ontario area where we have seen a handful of growers resort to illegal uses on onions the past several seasons. OFS recommended this use of “Other Funds” once we were confident that PURS would not be funded for the biennium. We thank Senator Vicki Walker (D-Eugene), Co-Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee of Ways & Means, for her support and help in making this happen.
HOUSE BILL 2999-B (PURS sunset extension) as amended was sent from Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee to the floor with a “Do-Pass” recommendation on May 27 where it should easily pass. It will then return to the House for a non-controversial concurrence vote. The House passed the original bill by a 58-1 vote on May 6. Again we thank Representative Brian Clem (D-Salem/Keizer) for his tireless brokering of this bill during the interim, then shepherding it through a number of amendment requests during the session. OFS supports.
SENATE BILL 637-B (School IPM) as amended was sent from House Education Committee to the floor with a “Do-Pass” recommendation on May 27. The bill passed the Senate by a 22-6 vote on May 13. While OFS understands the bill still needs some fine-tuning, it does not become a mandate on schools until July 1, 2012 which will give everyone time to examine the details, uncover any unworkable/uneconomical areas or unintended negative consequence and seek needed amendments in 2011. An example of one such unintended outcome identified and corrected at the last minute with the A-7 amendment was a problem concerning “low-impact” antimicrobial and disinfectant pesticides. The A-Engrossed version would have required that toilet cleaning or wiping down a kitchen food prep surface with a consumer-type product be only done by a licensed pesticide applicator and would require a “Pest Emergency” be declared.
The bill as it stands in the B-Engrossed version represents many hundreds of hours of time by OFS staff and OFS, OFIC and OFBF member representatives. It also has come along way since the final interim workgroup concept was first drafted as LC-804. That group and its chair Senator Bonamici, also had significant input/pressure from various Oregon school organizations, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA), The Pitchfork Rebellion, Citizens Sprayed by Pesticides and numerous others whose goal was clearly to outlaw all pesticide use on or even near school property. Some were the exact same folks who put forth legislation in 2007 to ban all pesticide use within 5 miles of any school property and the roads leading to them.
OFS will work with Senator Bonamici and others during to interim to see if additional problems can be worked out prior to next session. Some of those issues include notification and posting practices, and how schools will determine a realistic list of efficacious products permitted for use. Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) lobbyist Chuck Bennett said they too will assess the details to see if there are unintended problems or unreasonable costs that need further review and possible change.
WATER, WATER, WHO’S GOT THE WATER?
In last week’s Update, OFS jumped the gun a bit when we noted House Bill 3369 (water storage bill) as this is still a work in progress with some important details still under discussion. We thank Anita Winkler of the Oregon Water Resources Congress for keeping us on the straight and narrow.
OFS does fully support the concept of storing water during high flow periods for later use rather than simply letting it flow into the ocean. This has great promise to help mitigate growing water shortages for both municipal and natural resource uses. We also support the Umatilla Basin Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) project as an “on the ground” example of how an innovative idea can become a reality. OFS again thank Representatives Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton) and Jefferson Smith (D-Portland) for their continued efforts in seeking solutions that work for all stakeholders.
TAXES HERE, TAXES THERE, TAXES, TAXES EVERYWHERE!:
For weeks, the concern of potential tax increases have kept the business lobby quite occupied as four bills intended to generate an additional $800 million in new revenue continue to swirl around the State Capitol. In last week’s OFS legislative update, there was a thorough discussion of how the majority party, Democrats, plan to accomplish their goals. The minority party, Republicans, have also floated their tax plan entitled “Back to Basics” for the public to judge.
This week, twenty-nine associations representing small and large business communities, reviewed both plans and crafted a letter for all of our members to see. It is our hope that the Majority party will find our comments beneficial in their deliberations. As can be noted, the Minority party has come much closer to what the business community can support. There is a major reason for this. While Representative Bruce Hanna doesn’t hold the distinction of being the only business owner or the only legislator opposed to the Democrat tax increases in the House and Senate at the State Capitol, he certainly is the most passionate business owner. Bruce has made it well known that he will fight the Democrats’ tax increases. Rep. Hanna owns a Coca-Cola distributor business in Roseburg. He, like all in business, is struggling to hang on to his business and employees and is adamantly opposed to any tax increase.
Representative Hanna (R) of Roseburg, Senator Ted Ferrioli (R) of John Day and their Republican caucuses have put forth their own plan to keep state government funded without favoring Oregon state government over businesses trying to survive in Oregon. THANK YOU Representative HANNA and Senator FERRIOLI for your leadership! Also many thanks in advance to all legislators who will vote “NO” on new taxes.
Associated Oregon Industries characterizes the Senate and House Revenue Committees plan with this headline: $500 Million “Soak the Rich” Tax Plan Unveiled. Higher income Oregonians would pay $504 million more in personal income taxes over the next two years under a proposal unveiled this week by the Chairs of the Senate and House Revenue Committees.
The Alliance of Oregon’s Business Associations comprised of 29 business associations (OFS included) have joined with Associated Oregon Industries to send the following message to all legislators. Thank you J. L. Wilson, AOI, for taking the lead on this extremely important issue for the business community. This letter is the culmination of many, many meetings since the 2009 legislative session began.
Oregon Business Opposes Tax Increases
We, the members of the Alliance, represent over 25,000 Oregon businesses. We employ over 500,000 Oregonians. Oregon companies are struggling to maintain their businesses, keep people employed and make payrolls through the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Alliance members believe that new and increased taxes on companies and taxpayers will hurt Oregon’s prospects for recovery. We do not believe that increased taxes are needed to balance the state’s budget.
Oregon’s primary problem: Unemployment
Over 265,000 Oregonians are unemployed. One in every eight Oregonians can’t find a job. Our unemployment rate is the second highest in the nation
According to the state’s official economic forecast for 2009:
• The transportation equipment sector will lose 28% of its jobs.
• The wood products industry will shed 19% of its jobs.
• The computer and electronic sector will lose 13.7% of its jobs.
• Employment in the metals and machinery sector will decline 14.6%.
• Construction employment will be down 18.3%.
• The non-durable sector will see a 10.4% job loss.
• Trade, transportation and utilities will have 6.5% fewer jobs.
• The financial sector will lose 4.6% of its workforce.
• Professional and business services employment will decline 7.0%.
• Leisure and hospitality will show a decline of 4.2%.
According to the Oregon Department of Employment’s most recent unemployment report, only government and the education/health sectors gained jobs in April. Specifically, government added 2,100 jobs while the state’s businesses lost 9,500 jobs. This is not sustainable for Oregon’s economy.
Oregon’s top priority: Job retention and creation
The Oregon legislature needs to focus on a strategy to re-power Oregon through private sector job retention and creation. We believe strongly that increased taxes are detrimental to job growth. An increased tax burden will hurt the ability of our members to create desperately needed jobs. It is the wrong approach to balance the state’s budget.
We support budget proposals that pave the way for the state to live within its means without raising taxes. Each of our respective business members – as well as every Oregon family – has made difficult choices to live within their means as the recession takes its toll. State government will have to make some of these same tough choices, like holding the line on growth, pay increases and COLAs. Holding the line on taxes and spending in this recession clearly is the best prescription for job growth. We believe job growth benefits us all, including the public sector.
Proposed tax increases will kill nearly 6,000 Oregon jobs
Balancing the budget without new taxes is a difficult but not insurmountable task. Our neighbor to the north, Washington State, balanced its budget without tax hikes. To the south, California voters held legislators accountable with the overwhelming defeat of a series of tax increases at the ballot box. Voter sentiment is clear. There is no appetite for tax hikes, particularly in the midst of a recession when jobs are at a premium.
Oregon appears to be set to increase spending with $1 billion more in proposed spending from 2007-09 levels. This spending is funded with $800 million in new taxes on Oregon businesses and individuals, not including new transportation and health care taxes. Proposed budget “cuts” are not cuts in state spending, they’re “cuts” to projected government spending increases. This type of budgeting sets the stage for unsustainable government growth and more job-stifling tax hikes.
The Alliance has reviewed the various legislative tax proposals under consideration for balancing the state budget, including a new permanent corporate minimum tax based on gross receipts, a new corporate income tax, and a new personal income tax.
We strongly oppose each of these tax hikes. These proposals ignore the stark realities of our current recession. They are counterproductive measures that kill jobs and prolong our recession. In fact, the Legislative Revenue Office estimates that these tax hikes will kill 5,865 critical Oregon jobs.
The Alliance is steadfastly opposed to a gross receipts-style minimum tax on companies with no profit. A corporate tax rate hike will further depress Oregon’s economy by siphoning resources that are used for business investment in job-generating capital. A personal tax hike would give Oregon the dubious distinction of having the highest marginal income tax rate in the nation, further discouraging capital creation and investment in Oregon.
The Alliance urges legislators to reject additional taxes on businesses and individuals. The quickest path out of this recession is to let our state’s job creators do what they do best without saddling them with job-killing tax hikes.
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