May 2011 Legislative Update
By Jim Welsh
- Revenue Forecast – The May Revenue Forecast shows state revenues headed in the right direction. The forecast shows an increase of $128.8 million for the 2011-2013 biennium. This brings total resources available to just over $15 billion for the 2011-2013 budget in total general and lottery fund dollars. Although, there was a reduction of $1.2 billion in forecast revenue in the past two years and $49 million in just the past three months, today’s revenue forecast for the near future (2011-13 biennium), is much more optimistic. For 2011-13, we are told we can anticipate a strong economic recovery that will reverse the downward trend. And, we will believe this only if we experience it.
- HB 3613 Ag. Water Quality – The coalition consisting of the Dept. of Agriculture, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Justice, Oregon Farm Bureau, and Oregon Cattlemen are still in agreement that this legislation should go forward, but the Oregon Environmental Council and Municipalities interests have some questions and concerns that are being addressed. HB 3613 has been assigned to Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Sen. Dingfelder. At this point in time there has been no promise of a hearing, and even if there is a hearing, any amendments to the bill may not be acceptable to the greater interests involved.
- Wildlife Services Money Budgeted – The Ways & Means Committee passed out the Department of Agriculture budget bill with the Wildlife Services budgeted amount of $370 intact. This amount should be duplicated within the Department of Fish & Wildlife budget for a total of $740,000 for the next biennium, which is $500,000 more than appropriated in the 2009- 2011 Budget.
- Department of Ag. Budget - The ODA budget passed out of Ways & Means with better General Fund support than anticipated. Our lobbying efforts have paid off along with good support from the House, Senate, and Governor. From the beginning of the session the Ag. & Natural Resources message was expressing more need for General Fund money to support Ag. programs than more fees and new fees.
- Wolf Legislation - Presently, all legislation written to help with wolf predation is still in play. This is good, but if the bills are part of the “end game” they could be sacrificed or used for gain. The OCA wolf predation compensation bill HB 3560 is waiting to be heard in Ways & Means Natural Resources Subcommittee. HB 3636 was introduced by Rep. Greg Smith to provide the option to hunters to donate to predator control when they purchase a hunting license. The OCA HB 3562 is in Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee with Chair Dingfelder at the helm. We will continue to advocate for these bills until the Legislature closes business sometime in June.
- Redistricting – After viewing the options at http://www.leg.state.or.us/redistricting/ it is obvious the redistricting plan has a long way to go. There are two plans representing the Democrats view of redistricting, one option from the House and one from the Senate, and two representing the Republicans. The options provided by each party are very different and it is questionable whether or not there will be any agreement. If the Legislature can’t decide on the plan the decision defaults to the Secretary of State.
- Inheritance Tax – HB 2541 is the legislation focusing on the inheritance tax changes needed in Oregon to implement the 2007 legislation allowing a greater estate value to be exempted from the death tax before calculating further taxes. The Oregon Law Commission was involved in improving amendments but, Legislative Fiscal applied a $700 million fiscal impact statement to the bill which this session is a death note. We will continue to lobby for the passage of this bill and hope it will not die in the final moments of the session.
- Capital Gains Reduction – The discussion this session on the subject of reducing or eliminating the Oregon capital gains tax moved to an official proposal submitted by Sen. Morse and Sen. Burdick. As expected the proposal includes elimination of the “Corporate Kicker”, altering the “Individual Kicker” (using 50% for “Rainy Day Funds), and reducing the Capital Gains Tax. The Democrat and Republican members do not want to vote on reducing the “Individual Kicker” and, also, the Democrat members do not want to vote to reduce the Capital Gains Tax. So, the conundrum, who would vote to pass the bill in either the House or Senate? To say the least this legislation has a problem.