By Tuesday, April 9, all bills need to be voted out of their original committee in order to survive. This is the turning point of the session. Priorities get whittled down and the playing field becomes clearer as extraneous legislation falls by the wayside.
We will know much more on Wednesday morning as committees will work into the evening up until the very last moments on Tuesday evening.
Activity on Major Issues
We want to reiterate the four major tax hikes being pushed by legislative leaders. As of now, all four proposals are serious and viable. It is the story of the 2019 Oregon legislature.
Health Care Tax (HB 2269). This unbelievable proposal would give the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) the authority to determine what every large employer (defined as 50+ employees who work an average of 8/hours per week!) should be spending on health care for employees and authorizes the agency to levy a tax on every employer that does not meet the agency's minimum health care spending requirements. Agency leaders testified that he bill is designed the raise $500 million per biennium in new taxes.
OSCC strongly opposes to this bill and joined other business associations in written testimony. We were not even allowed to testify in person! The bill now resides in the House Revenue Committee.
Paid Family Leave (HB 2005). Legislative leaders have now introduced this bill as the newest and most refined effort to pass a paid family and medical leave system. Bottom line: the bill give the Employment Department the authority to levy up to a 1% payroll tax on employers and a 1% income tax on employees to implement a 26-week per year paid family leave program. The bill would apply to all employers with at least one employee. The bill raises about $1.5 billion in new taxes ever biennium to fund this new state-run bureaucracy and insurance program.
Cap & Trade (HB 2020). The newest re-write of HB 2020, the 'Cap & Trade' bill, did nothing to alleviate cost concerns for manufacturers or everyday Oregonians. The new version of the bill would immediately add 16 cents per gallon in fuel costs and an immediate 30% increase in natural gas costs for residential, commercial and industrial customers. Large manufacturers will see similar and immediate cost increases for electricity. All told, we are analyzing this bill as a $1.1 billion increase in costs for Oregonians each biennium. The vast majority of direct costs will be borne by manufacturers. HB 2020 will result in an immediate 30% increase in natural gas costs and a 16-cent per gallon gas price hike.
Business Tax Increase. It's becoming clearer that Democratic leadership will lean toward selecting a Commercial Activity Tax, which is a pure gross receipts tax, as the basis for implementing a new business tax to add more than $2 billion in revenue each biennium into the state's K-12 system. At this point, it does not appear that PERS reform or any other government cost savings will accompany this tax proposal. A growing coalition of business organizations, including OSCC, are now going on record as opposing a new gross receipts tax.
What is the total biennial cost to the all the tax increases that are now on the table? $5.67 billion.
Other Key Issues Coming up This Week
Marijuana Accommodation (SB 379). OSCC is still pushing hard to DEFEAT SB 379. SB 379 would undermine and nullify all employers' workplace drug-free policies and would require employers to accommodate off-duty marijuana use. OSCC is very concerned about the ability of employers to implement and enforce workplace drug-free policies.
SB 379 is scheduled for a committee vote early this week. We are trying to keep it bottled up in committee.
BOLI Budget (SB 5516). OSCC joined other groups from business and labor in supporting a renewed focus on technical assistance at BOLI. Commissioner Val Hoyle's budget request would make small business technical assistance a core focus, add an eastside technical assistance and apprenticeship specialist, and update BOLI's hard-to-navigate website. OSCC was pleased to be able to support Labor Commissioner Hoyle.
Harassment in the Workplace (SB 726). On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Workforce had a work session on SB 726, which would create sweeping changes to Oregon's harassment and discrimination statutes. The committee reviewed the -4 amendment, which removes the section that would hold those with executive authority personally liable if they merely "should have known" about harassment and failed to prevent it from occurring. While this is a positive change, there are still more amendments to be made, and OSCC anticipates a -5 amendment will be considered during Tuesday's work session on the bill. OSCC considers the removal of personal liability for owners and officers to be a major win.