State Capitol passing taxes behind closed doors

By Taxpayers Association of Oregon

The pandemic has resulted in Oregonians being shut out of their capitol while the politicians inside vote on bills. Hearings were conducted via computer video conferences in which legislative leaders effectively controlled everything the public saw. While placing limits on public participation never seen before in Oregon history, the politicians decided to take advantage of our weakness by further disguising what they were doing. We list below how politicians shut the public out of their own political process.

Some of This Legislative Session’s Most Egregious Abuses of Power

• Anonymous bills that keep secret the name of the legislation’s author, thus protecting the politician from ever being held accountable for an unpopular or bad bill. This practice also keeps the public from being able to ask questions about the bill before a legislation hearing on the bill – because there was no one, no bill sponsor, to question.

• Tax increases secretly buried within bills. For instance, SB 846 raises income taxes by taking part of an individual or couple’s Kicker Income Tax Refund. Yet, in the official explanation of the bill, capitol staff described the bill as simply – and deceivingly – a government budget transfer bill.

• Cramming dozens of bills into a single legislative hearing. One hearing had 43 bills on the docket for a single day; all were up for a vote that day. This practice essentially gives citizens the bum-rush.

• Limiting public testimony. At one hearing on three different timber tax bills, legislative leaders limited public testimony to only 60 seconds for each individual. That is, 60 seconds to share your thoughts on three different bills. When politicians limit your voice to a mere minute you know it is because their mind is already made up. And some capitol politicians don’t ever bother to show-up to these hearings. Apparently, 60 seconds is just too long to sit and listen to citizens.

• Surprise hearings. Friday afternoon announcements for tax bill hearings that will be held at a Monday morning hearing. All so the public will not know what’s happening until it is too late.

• Surprise amendments.  A carbon tax amendment was introduced right before the hearing leaving lawmakers no time to read and understand the bill and it’s potential impact to raise utility rates by over 40%.

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