SALEM — For eight hours and 22 minutes, the Legislature met on Monday in a special session to pass a business tax cut requested by Gov. Kate Brown. It was a day of history lessons, wisecracks, posturing and odd voting coalitions. A look at some of the highlights:
Strange voting patterns
The House and the Senate passed House Bill 4301 during Monday’s one-day special session. In a Legislature where voting on most bills ends up falling along party lines, the business tax bill that was under consideration in the special session brought about unusual voting coalitions.
The bill was requested by Brown, a Democrat, and officially sponsored by House Majority Leader Tina Kotek, D-Portland. The bill was supported by most Democrats and Republicans in the House, where it passed 51-8.
But a few protest votes against the tax cut for sole proprietorships were registered by members such as Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, a member of House leadership.
In the Senate, the vote was 18-12. Many Republicans voted “no” on the bill as a protest against Brown, but were also joined by Democrats such as Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis and Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton. Gelser said she didn’t believe cutting into revenue that can pay for key state programs was a good idea. Hass said he wasn’t sure the original 2013 tax cut had brought about the job growth it promised and that expanding the break without knowing its full impact was ill-advised.
They were joined on the “no” side by GOP lawmakers such as Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas and Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass, who opposed the bill because they wanted deeper tax cuts.
Among the Deschutes County delegation, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, and Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, all voted yes.
Boquist was among the most vocal critics of Brown calling a special session. He’s filed a request for an advisory opinion with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission asking it to weigh in on whether Brown called the special session out of political considerations for her re-election campaign. Boquist cited the state constitution that special sessions should only be called to deal with major crises.
In a statement on the original intent of the constitution, Boquist juxtaposed modern lawmakers with the journeys they would have had to take in 1859 for “extraordinary situations.”
“The dictionary of the time does not say re-election is an emergency. An extraordinary occasion in 1859 would have required Senator Bentz to take a steamer from Ontario to The Dalles, then rent a horse to Oregon City, taking more than a week of travel. Likewise, Senator Linthicum would have saddled his horse upon receiving the telegram, then traveled more than 10 days to the Capitol. What merited extraordinary occasions in the past? Governor Gibbs called the legislature into session to adopt an anti-slavery constitutional amendment, Governor Moody called for a special session to replace a dead U.S. senator, and Governor Olcott called a session to deal with ‘fiendish homicides.’ Fiendish may be the right term for calling an emergency for a $11 million dollar tax cut.”
Wrong Hall of Famer
During the special session tax cut debate, Rep. E. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls, said the Legislature’s repeated arguing over tax policy was “as Joe DiMaggio said, ‘deja vu all over again.’” Twitter lit up with Salem’s baseball aficionados noting that the famous saying is actually credited to the New York Yankees’ malapropism-prone Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, not DiMaggio, the Hall of Fame slugger known as “The Yankee Clipper.”
By the end of the debate, Reschke rose again to correct the record, noting that as a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it pained him to have to mention not one, but two stars of the Yankees, the Dodgers’ historic nemesis.
After a day in which opponents castigated her and even some supporters called the special session “less than perfect,” Brown thanked lawmakers for passing the business tax cut.
“Today, lawmakers sent the message that Oregon is the place where small businesses have a fair shot to thrive. Small businesses are the backbone of a strong Oregon economy, and will now be able to invest more growing their business and hiring more employees. I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish today, and I will continue working to create a strong, inclusive economy of the future.”
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, email@example.com