SALEM — Taxes, voting trends, legislative “concepts” and proposed wildfire protections are among the topics on tap this week in Oregon political circles. Among the latest:
Brown tax plan
In her budget released two weeks ago, Gov. Kate Brown included a proposal to restructure the corporate minimum tax. Currently, businesses pay between $150 and $100,000 in minimum corporate tax based on their sales in Oregon. Brown wants to create five tiers in the tax, which would have the effect of increasing the amount paid by corporations that top $200 million in sales within the state. For example, companies whose sales top $1 billion in Oregon currently pay $100,000. Under the plan, they would be in the top bracket and pay $1 million. The proposal would have to win approval of the Legislature next year.
Voting highs and lows
Oregonians cast 1.9 million ballots in the election last month, the second most in state history, the Secretary of State’s Office said last week. The top mark was the 2.05 million cast in the 2016 general election, which featured the presidential race. Though the 2018 general election numbers are high, the turnout percentage — 69.7 percent — is the lowest since 2002. The steep increase in the numbers of potential ballots due to the state’s “motor voter” law, which automatically registers drivers to vote when they get or renew their drivers license, led to a larger pool of voters.
The Legislature won’t convene until Jan. 22, but legislative committees will meet Wednesday through Friday for “committee days.” They will hold informational hearings on issues ranging from a carbon emissions cap to wildfires to education funding. Because the House and Senate are not in session, no actual action can take place on legislation during committee days. Lawmakers will discuss “concepts.” It’s also the last official meetings of lawmakers who either were defeated in November or are leaving office when new lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 14.
Merkley bidding for more fire help
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., has introduced the Wildfire-Resilient Communities Act, which would set up a $1 billion fund to help the U.S. Forest Service to more rapidly respond to major wildfires. The bill also reauthorizes the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, which Merkley said has helped limit fires in Oregon through improved forest management. It will also create a Stewardship Fund to provide counties with payments proportionate to the amount of federal land they contain.
GOP hit hard in California
While the Nov. 6 election was a major setback for Oregon Republicans, it wasn’t quite as devastating as the results in neighboring California. Democrats won 60 of the 80 seats in the state assembly, the biggest margin in 100 years. In the state Senate, Democrats now have a supermajority of 29 of 40 seats. Both U.S. senators, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state are all Democrats. Republicans lost seven congressional seats, giving Democrats a 46-7 majority in the delegation. As of September, there were fewer registered Republican voters in California than Democrats or nonaffiliated voters — a situation mirrored in Oregon. The entire West Coast — Washington, California and Oregon — now have “trifecta” governments with Democrats holding the governorship and majorities in both chambers of their legislatures.
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