May 6, 2019
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Oregon House approves $2 billion in new business taxes for schools

After months of cross-state meetings on education rates, class sizes and increased funding, a measure that would tax Oregon businesses by $2 billion more every two years has passed the state House.

OPB reports that the measure would require businesses to pay a tax of 0.57% on sales inside the state’s borders that exceed $1 million. The first $1 million in sales would be exempt. There are some carve-outs for gas, groceries and some health care providers. In addition, businesses could subtract 35% of their labor or capital costs from total sales and there is a personal income tax cut by 0.25% for some consumers.

Saying they had been shut out of negotiations, minority Republicans in the House slowed down the legislative process through a procedural maneuver requiring the entire 45-page law to be read aloud before the vote. More than two hours later, the bill passed on party lines, 37-21.

Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, a small business owner who was part of that cross-state Student Success Committee, said she still doesn't know how the tax will affect her own small business, as details of the tax were only recently released.

“How can we mitigate the impacts to our small business if we don’t even know what they are?” Helt said, adding that she would be downscaling her business, which employs 100 people, because of the tax.

Democrats, however, said the bill was needed to fund a depleted public education system, and would be earmarked for that purpose.

“This revenue is tied to education. Period. No exceptions,” said Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, one of the key backers of the bill. “This is 30 years in the making. We’ve witnessed generations of children who’ve endured classroom experience far below what they deserve. … We can’t delay anymore. The time to start investing in our children’s futures has come today.”

The measure now moves to the Senate. Democrats need a supermajority vote in both chambers; by the numbers, they have the votes.

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Spring Meeting
Last-Minute Legislating

Spin Control: Doing the budget the way it's always done doesn't make it the best way

By Jim Camden

Legislators are apt to defend their budget process as "this is the way it's always done." If that was a good reason, one might think we would still be hanging horse thieves, placing miscreants in the stocks and throwing debtors into prison for not paying bills, or doing any number of imperfect things we've stopped doing.

In truth, the "always done" defense is only applied by people who do it that way because it suits them.

It suits legislative leaders to hold on to the budget until the very end of the session to have some leverage over hard-to-handle lawmakers. It suits budget writers from each chamber to sequester themselves somewhere away from the madding crowd of colleagues and lobbyists to avoid being pestered for everyone's favorite six-, seven-, or eight-figure project. And then there's always that familiar refrain that negotiators can't speak freely if discussions are in the open, because they might be criticized for suggesting something that doesn't sit well with the folks back home, even if it does break a logjam that leads to the deal.

This process keeps the people and businesses who will pay for all the programs and salaries out of the loop for most of the key decision points...

Read the full column in The Spokesman-Review
Talent and Capital

The Seattle-area economy punches above its weight -- and that's a huge strength

By Jon Talton, The Seattle Times

Newcomers -- and there are many -- might think that the Puget Sound region's economy is so hot because of two Big Tech headquarters, along with the "legacy" power of Boeing.

It's understandable. Amazon and Microsoft are two of the five giants that make up America's technology royalty (Apple, Facebook and Google are in the Bay Area). We're on the cutting edge of software, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and so much more.

Boeing's operations, especially commercial airliners, anchor one of the world's top aerospace clusters (the other being Airbus in Toulouse, France). The company is not only the nation's largest manufacturing exporter, but also, especially with its defense divisions, a strategic asset.

Together, the three employ about 166,000 here in well-paid, high-skilled jobs. Boeing is Washington's largest private employer, with a workforce of 69,830 as of February.

It's hard to think of another similar-sized metropolitan area in the United States with anything close.

But this is only a start in explaining why Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue enjoys one of the strongest economies in the nation. How strong? Per capita gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, was nearly $81,000 in 2017. That compares with $61,000 in San Diego and $63,000 in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Larger Phoenix lagged in at $45,000...

Read the full column in The Seattle Times
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