Friends and neighbors,
We are past the halfway mark for the Legislative Session and many of my top priorities, prompted by my conversations with you, have moved out of committee and are well on their way to becoming law.
- Restructuring Oregon’s higher education governance to allow our universities to reach their potential – Senate Bill 270
- Significantly expanding and coordinating college credit programs for high school students – Senate Bill 222
- Protecting our environment by expanding Oregon’s world renowned bottle recycling program – Senate Bill 117A
- Ending the cruel and indefensible practice of horse tripping – Senate Bill 835. Read The Horse Magazine’s piece on my efforts to end this archaic exercise.
My highest personal priority has been education and we are continuing to work on a state budget that will boost school funding by $1 billion. This is no small task. Remember, unlike the federal government, we have to balance our budget. It’s the only real requirement the legislature has.
I believe that a strong education and a strong economy go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. As we work on education reforms and continue building upon the reforms passed last year, please let me be very clear on one point:
None of these reforms make much sense in a math class with 50 or more students. Oregon needs to increase education funding at every level if we are to reach the 40-40-20 goal.
We must address our volatile tax structure. Whether it’s closing more tax loopholes, instituting a carbon tax, or working on a progressive consumption tax, I’m certain of one thing: something has to change if we want to end this constant boom and bust cycle that results in teacher layoffs, tax inequities and tax uncertainty.
I have sponsored legislation to restructure our tax code from top to bottom, cutting income and property taxes and replacing them with a consumption tax. It would be revenue neutral for Oregonians. Yet it would raise nearly a billion dollars a year more by taxing tourists and people who don’t report their income.
In April we held a week of hearings on revenue neutral tax reform. The goal was to spark a statewide conversation about our broken tax code, the most volatile in the nation, and paving a path forward. We generated quite a discussion and heard from countless people and organizations urging us to reform our tax code.
Among those demanding change included Governor Kitzhaber, Ryan Deckert (president of Oregon Business Association), Sue Levin (Executive Director of Stand for Children), Representative Tobias Read, Senator Ginny Burdick, Chuck Sheketoff (Executive Director of Oregon Center for Public Policy), and dozens of local constituents. Thank you all.
There was quite a bit of press coverage on the hearings, click here to see The Oregonian's piece – don't make the same mistake again, and again, and again.
It’s easy to follow bills being considered in the legislature. The Oregon Legislature has recently released OLIS (Oregon Legislative Information System). OLIS is a bill tracking system that is intuitive and open to the public. Check it out here.
Thank you for the continued honor of serving you in the Oregon State Senate.