SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Legislature approved a series of bills on pensions and taxes Wednesday, then adjourned its special session after three days of work.
The approval of five bills caps a year-long effort by Gov. John Kitzhaber to stem the growing costs of public-employee pensions.
Lawmakers voted to lower the annual inflation increases to pension checks for retired government workers.
They also voted to raise taxes on some individuals and businesses while lowering them for others, to increase tobacco taxes and to prohibit cities and counties from banning genetically modified crops.
Proponents say the changes will free up money for schools to reduce class sizes or lengthen school years. Critics say there were better ways the Legislature to achieve that goal.
Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, voted no on the revenue package but for the other four bills, on PERS, funds for seniors and schools and the GMO bill, an aide said.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend voted for the three other bills but against both the tax package and the PERS cost-of-living cuts, telling NewsChannel 21 they "were poor policy and not near enough" to solve the issues facing the state pension system.
Governor Kitzhaber's Statement Upon Sine Die of the Special Session
(Salem, OR) - Governor Kitzhaber released the following statement upon sine die of the special session of the Oregon State Legislature:
"I applaud my legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle for once again coming together for the benefit of Oregonians. This week, Senators and Representatives acted to boost education funding, restore lost school days, and turn the corner on teacher lay-offs while providing badly needed tuition relief to make post-secondary education more accessible for Oregon students. For Oregon's long-term prosperity, legislators found room to compromise on cost savings and new revenue for critical mental health and senior services and targeted tax relief for small business owners and working families.
This is what working government and leadership look like, with people from across the state finding balanced solutions to real problems. These actions will make a difference across Oregon this year and well into the future. I am proud of my colleagues in the Oregon State Legislature for delivering for Oregon's children's, economy, and future."
News release from Rep. Mike McLane:
OREGON HOUSE PASSES PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM
REFORMS SAVING AN ADDITIONAL $1.9 BILLION LONG-TERM
SALEM, OR - The Oregon House of Representatives voted today to implement additional measures to control the growing cost of the Public Employees Retirement System. The bill, SB 861, changes the cost of living adjustment to benefits. It also includes temporary supplemental payments for low income PERS retirees through 2019.
"With an unfunded liability of around $13.2 billion, the Public Employees Retirement System is a program on tenuous financial ground. We must act to fix PERS," said Rep. Mike McLane (R - Powell Butte) the House Republican Leader. "While this measure does not solve the problem, it does provide an additional reduction of about $1.9 billion to the unfunded liability, which is a step in the right direction."
In a separate bill, SB 862, the Oregon House passed three new provisions to provide additional accountability to the system. First, the bill removes the conflict of interest related to PERS for future legislators by placing them in a 401(k) plan instead of PERS. Second, it makes sure a PERS member's final salary is not "spiked" by additional benefits like health insurance payments. Finally, it permits criminal restitution judgments to attach PERS benefits to compensate victims of felonies.
Oregon legislative leaders' news release:
KOTEK AND MCLANE COMMEND PASSAGE OF "GRAND BARGAIN" LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE TO FUND EDUCATION
SALEM - Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and House Republican Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) this afternoon issued the following statement applauding the passage of bipartisan legislation to increase school funding, generating savings in the Public Employee Retirement System, and support small business growth:
"Oregonians can be proud that the Oregon legislature is not gridlocked. We responded to the Governor's call for a special session by working together even when it was difficult. We brought additional reforms to the Public Employee Retirement System, helped seniors afford medical care, made a dedicated investment in mental health, supported Oregon small businesses and put more money into education this biennium.
"This compromise package for education and small business included something that was difficult for every member of the legislature. Every legislator had to wrestle with these decisions and determine the best path forward. We are grateful for all the hard work done by our colleagues."
News Release from: Ore. School Boards Assn.
PERS REFORM, REVENUE PACKAGE WILL BOOST SCHOOLS
Posted: October 2nd, 2013 5:00 PM
The Legislature's passage of a package of bills on revenue and reform of the Public Employees Retirement System will benefit Oregon's children and public school system for years, said Betsy Miller-Jones, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association.
Miller-Jones said the package allows districts an important opportunity to rehire teachers and restore lost school days.
"This is a huge win for our children and our schools," she said. "Oregon's public schools have been steadily losing ground, in the form of larger class sizes and shorter school calendars, over the last decade.
"Our members have sent us a clear message that PERS reform is a main priority in lowering their costs and putting our state's schools back on course."
Miller-Jones praised Gov. Kitzhaber and legislative leaders of both parties for finding a solution in the special session.
"This compromise took courage and patience on all sides," she said. "This was an Oregon solution that remains fair to public employees but restores a balance that we can sustain as a state."
Miller-Jones said OSBA's legal advisors believe the package will survive an expected legal challenge from employee unions.
OSBA is a member services agency for more than 200 locally elected boards serving school districts, education service districts and community colleges. It also provides services to charter schools and their boards.
OSBA has joined with business and parent/student groups to support PERS reform. The coalition's website can be found at www.fixpersnow.org
News release from Ssenate Majority Office:
Senate approves extraordinary funding package to secure stability for schools
Bipartisan votes on bills will also infuse senior programs, mental health services with millions in new funding
SALEM—In what amounts to a sea change in Oregon’s long-term investment in our schools, the Oregon Senate today gave final approval to a series of bills aimed at providing more direct resources and funding for education, senior programs, and other critical state services. The votes on the Senate floor today brought the 2013 Special Legislative Session to a close and delivered a huge victory to communities across Oregon.
“This is a momentous day for all of Oregon. Today we directed another $100 million to K-12 schools, which will add more days to the academic year and shrink classroom sizes,” said Senator Rod Monroe (D-Portland). “Given that we added an additional $1 billion to the school fund in the past session, the infusion of new funding in this special session is just extraordinary.”
School districts across Oregon say they expect to use the additional revenue to add more teachers and provide more instruction days during the school year. Additionally, the package will boost funding for universities and community colleges that will use these new resources to keep students’ tuition increases to a minimum.
The Senate approved five bills on Wednesday:
- Senate Bill 861, which makes further cuts to the cost-of-living adjustments received by PERS retirees;
- Senate Bill 862, which reforms certain policies related to PERS;
- Senate Bill 863, which forbids counties from adopting local ordinances relating to agriculture;
- House Bill 3601, which increases the corporate tax rate, modifies the personal exemption credit, reforms the senior medical deduction, and increases the cigarette tax while introducing lower tax rates for small and family-owned businesses;
- House Bill 5101, which appropriates about $200 million to critical state services in the current budget cycle.
Each of the five bills passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. In September, legislative leaders and Governor John A. Kitzhaber agreed to move this package of bills through the three-day special session.
“Today’s special session will make a lasting, positive change to our state’s revenue system by making the senior medical deduction more accessible to lower-income Oregonians,” said Senator Ginny Burdick (D-Portland). “We are also asking corporations and wealthier Oregonians to pay a little more to boost critical funding for schools and state services.”
In the current budget cycle, the revenue generated by the package will direct $100 million to K-12 schools, $40 million to universities and community colleges, $41 million to senior programs, and $20 million for mental health services. The bill also expands the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 6% to 8%, which provides meaningful assistance to working families trying to make ends meet.
The bipartisan votes in the Oregon Senate and House to boost funding today marked a stark contrast with the federal government, which entered its second day of shutdown because of partisan gamesmanship in Congress.
“I’m proud that both sides have given some ground in order to make this package into a reality for everyday Oregonians,” said Senator Lee Beyer (D-Springfield). “It will truly make a real difference for Oregon’s students and our most vulnerable.”
The bills now move to the desk of Governor John A. Kitzhaber, who has pledged to sign each of them.
News release from Rep. Mike McLane:
OREGON HOUSE PASSES ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR K-12 EDUCATION,
OREGON UNIVERSITY SYSTEM, COMMUNITY COLLEGES & MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMS
SALEM, OR – The Oregon House of Representatives voted today to increase funding for Oregon’s K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities. In addition, they increased funding for mental health programs across the state.