Senator Jason Atkinson: Legislative Update

State Senator Jason Atkinson Office:

Back to Basics Budget Saves Taxpayers Money, Protects Services

Yesterday the Senate and House Republicans announced a Back to Basics budget plan. This budget plan fully funds education and protects essential services such as public safety and human services by providing them with the same level of funding as the last two year budget, while creating a $1.374 billion surplus for targeted legislative add-backs and reserves.The Back to Basics budget protects our most important priorities: high-quality education for our children, safe communities, and humanitarian services for those who need them most. When Oregon families and small businesses are spending only on what is most important and tightening their belts everywhere else, it is only appropriate their legislators do the same. By budgeting responsibly and not spending frivolously we can fund what is most important to Oregonians without having to raise taxes on Oregon’s families and small business in these tough times.

You can find a detailed outline of the plan here, but here are some highlights of the Back to Basics budget. The plan:

“¢ Is founded on the principle that Oregon does not need to increase its revenue to provide Oregonians the services they deserve and need.
“¢ Fully funds K-12 education with $6.245 billion, not cutting their budget at all so children can receive a quality education for a full year.
“¢ Protects the safety and health of our communities by providing, at a minimum, the same budget they had last the last budget cycle.
“¢ Uses $911 million of federal stimulus money and $457 million from the Rainy Day and Education Stability Funds to fund the core services at their 2007-09 levels, leaving $457 million of Oregon’s reserves intact.
“¢ After funding each core service at their 2007-09 levels, the plan leaves $1.374 billion for the legislature to make add-backs to the most important priorities.

Atkinson Helping Businesses Create New Jobs

Senator Atkinson, along with Representative Scott Bruun, has introduced HB 3493. The bill is a new tax credit for businesses: for each new employee they hire, who is employed for at least a year, the business will receive a $3,000 tax credit. This is almost identical to Senate President Peter Courtney’s SB 4, with one important distinction: Senator Atkinson’s bill stipulates the new employee must have been unemployed for at least 4 weeks in order for the business to receive a tax credit. Senate Bill 4 would give out a tax credit to businesses for any new employee.

The crucial difference is that Senator Atkinson’s bill creates an incentive for businesses to hire Oregonians who are unemployed, SB 4 does not create that incentive; an employee could simply switch companies and the business would qualify for the tax credit. “This is about turning benefit checks into pay checks,” says the Senator. “President Courtney has the right idea, but we need to make sure this is going to actually put Oregonians back to work who are currently struggling to find a job. Unless we limit this to hiring from the ranks of the unemployed, this is just going to turn into another corporate tax credit.”

Atkinson Eliminating Taxes on Unemployment Benefits

Several months ago, Oregon lawmakers disconnected from federal tax law. When the federal stimulus bills came out, the decision was made at the federal level to discontinue taxing unemployment benefits. Oregon specifically disconnected from the federal tax law in order to continue taxing unemployment benefits. Senator Atkinson does not believe this is right and is working to change this policy.

Currently Oregon taxes the first $2,400 of unemployment benefit a person receives. “Oregon has the second highest unemployment in America. Today, more than 255,000 Oregonians are without work and the Oregon government is taxing them. It’s like kicking someone when they’re down,” says the Senator. Oregonians — many of whom are on unemployment for the first time in their lives — need a hand up, and this is not the way to go about giving it to them. “Oregonians need to know we are on their side,” the Senator said. “Oregon’s government can’t say we are serious about creating jobs with a straight face when it taxes the unemployed.”

81 Days and Counting”¦When Will the Legislature Fund Education?

As we are nearing the 100th day of session, the legislature still has not passed an education budget. “Ninety one of us: 1 Governor, 30 Senators, and 60 State Representatives all say education is the priority, and yet this year, again, it will probably be the very last budget to pass,” lamented Senator Atkinson. “It is time to make education the priority we all say it is. It is well past the 81st day of the 75th Legislative session, and Oregon teachers, students and school administrators still have no idea what their budgets will look like. There is no excuse for waiting so long.”

Many other states such as Florida, Washington and Nevada can pass their full budgets in 60 days. Senator Atkinson once again has a bill, Senate Joint Resolution 19, which would require the Oregon legislature to pass a K-12 budget by the 81st day of the legislative session or the Oregon legislators would forfeit their compensation. While it is currently awaiting a hearing, if passed, SJR 19 would be put to a vote by the Oregon people on the November 2009 ballot.

All Best,

Kyle Vinyard
Senator Atkinson’s Staff

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Posted by at 07:12 | Posted in Measure 37 | 7 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • eagle eye

    This actually looks like a serious budget. The devil of course is in the details. It looks like human services gets quite a whack. But to repeat, it looks like a serious budget. It would be interesting to hear a critique from the other side. Can it really be this easy?

  • anonymous

    Where the hell was this a year ago? Why are these Johnny come Latelys bringing this stuff up now?
    The voters are too lazy and ignorant to remember any of this a year from now.

  • Yes, it can be this easy.

    Meet your next governor, everyone, whether you like it or not.

    Jason Atkinson for Governor, 2010.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    I only have two issues with this budget:

    1 – I am really worried about this reliance on the stimulus money. Look, I know its almost $1B so yes, can’t give that up. However it really smacks of getting us into the same trouble we got into over timber payments. I can really see Salem getting addicted to this money real quick.

    2 – Half a billion dollars in tax increases. I can think of no, and I mean absolutely no way to justify a tax increase now while there is any government program or agency that is getting any increase whatsoever. This includes inflationary or COLA increases.

    Yes I know, all those great efficient union workers down at government get automatic cost of living increases. Yes I know its really mean of me to think maybe their salery should be a little down to earth. For the rest of us poor dopes out here who don’t get the rock star treatment it seems a real stick in the eye to saddle us with a decrease in pay through increasing our taxes to pay for this stuff. We have the second highest unemployment in the country. I hardly see the need to make matter harder for those of us who do still have a job, simply so some department can get an inflationary increase.

  • Sybella

    On the surface the credit for putting somebody to work sounds good. I does have a huge downside though. The cost to hire, train, and pay taxes on that employee so far exceeds the credit, it isn’t even worth going for it.

    Instead of credits, government just simply needs to get off the backs of employers. The idea that because somebody is a business and hires people, they are rolling in money is a falacy. High taxes and government intervention is discouraging, not only to the employers, but seriously to the employees.

    Most of us are not in business to do good things for employees, we’re in business because we chose to be instead of working in somebody elses business. If the employers are continually bombarded by mandates, many will quit. We are looking for a place to move our business where it will not be as bad as in Oregon. We have been looking for some time and will continue to look. Yes even with the complaints, we are taking our time. We didn’t become successful by being stupid.

    Remember people with money create jobs, the poor don’t create jobs, they fill them. Kill the golden goose and nobody has anything.

  • the other side

    This budget is based on old income projections. New projections out today have far less revenue available. Looks like the Republicans are playing PR, not serious budgeting.

  • come again?

    “Remember people with money create jobs, the poor don’t create jobs, they fill them.”

    My family immigrated from afar with nothing in their pockets. They had zero job skills and were unemployable, yet they created several businesses and had some modest successes.

    Today in Portland you can buy lunch at countless food vendor carts that are run by immigrants, and some natives, who for very little capital start their own businesses. Some of these will be more successful than others, and could turn into full fledged restaurants. One might be the next KFC or IHOPs. Who knows?

    Point is, it is not only “people with money” who start businesses and create new jobs. In fact, it was “people with money” who got greedy, wanted ever more money for zero output, and managed to bring our nation’s financial system and economy to its knees.

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