Taxpayer Association Capitol Update: Bonds, election and tax credits

Taxpayer Association of Oregon
Legislative Update:

By Jim Welsh, Lobbyist

Bonded Indebtedness
Previously legislative leaders moved legislation on the state’s bonding capacity to pay for $175 million in projects that will stimulate the economy. Not a bad plan as long as the projects out live the period of time it takes to pay for them. Some of the projects are not capital projects, just regular maintenance and should be paid for by the General Fund budget. Projects such as the $950,000 new structure at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport and a $3.5million upgrade of a Portland State University science building are legitimate capital projects and possibly justify increasing the bonding capacity as an economic stimulus to help create jobs. Legislators are reminded that they are constitutionally bound by the state spending limits and are not allowed to deficit spend so it is important for them to move cautiously and appropriately.

Tax Credits and Technical Changes
Recently the House Revenue Committee held hearings on several bills that were deemed useful and helped the transfer of certain income and excise tax credits, including the business energy tax credits. The committee also held hearings on technical changes in Oregon tax statutes and the connection date update to federal Internal Revenue Code.

Election Process
It is no surprise that there are opportunities and advantages for the ruling party to possibly gain by revising some of the election process. Both the House and Senate Rules Committee held hearings on proposed legislation to significantly revise the election process. Many voters would approve the changes and many would see an increased possibility for mistakes or election fraud. HB 2386 is just one of those questionable bills which would direct the Secretary of State to adopt an electronic voter registration system. We knew it was coming as it has been discussed many times in the past. Another bill, HJR 5, is intended to amend the Oregon Constitution by a vote of the people to allow citizens to register to vote in an election not later than the day of the election. We know this is allowed in other states and knew it would be proposed in Oregon, but is it arguably a good idea? The Senate Rules Committee heard several bills that would be considered good ideas by some voters. SB 331 would “prohibit a person from serving as chief petitioner of initiative, referendum or recall petition if person had outstanding obligation to pay civil penalty for violation of election law or rule.” SB 337 directs the “Supreme Court to rule on ballot title petition not later than 45 days after oral argument or 45 days after all memoranda have been filed in response to petition, whichever is later.” And, some voters will appreciate that SB 300 would require the Secretary of State to include in the voters pamphlet “a list of the five sources that have expended the most money supporting the measure and the five sources that have expended the most money opposing the measure, as determined by the Secretary of State.”