Democratic leaders announced Thursday that there would be no revenue reform this session.
Gov. Kate Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek released a joint statement saying that although several measures are moving forward on cost containment and revenue increases, there is not the necessary support in the Legislature for structural tax changes. Revenue reform has been linked to providing adequate funding for K-12 education.
“This was a lost opportunity, and it’s very disappointing,” said Jim Green, OSBA’s executive director. “This state has had a revenue problem for decades, and it’s acknowledged by both parties. Now there will be a lot of finger-pointing on both sides, but ultimately this is a failure by our elected state leaders to put aside their differences and do what is needed.”
Any tax changes would require at least one vote from a Republican in each chamber. Although Democrats have a majority in both chambers, the Oregon Constitution requires a three-fifths vote to pass “bills for raising revenue.”
“This session, we had not only an opportunity, but a moral obligation to rebuild the broken pieces of our budget and revenue systems, which have been crumbling for more than two decades,” House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson said in a statement. “Instead, we’re telling our students, yet again: Not this time.”
Democrats are still pushing measures that could increase tax revenue without triggering the three-fifths requirement. House Bill 2060, which is before the House on Friday, could increase Oregon revenue by $196 million in 2017-19 by limiting a special tax rate for some business income.
Next week, the House is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 5517, which appropriates $8.2 billion for the State School Fund. That is $200 million less than what school business officials say districts need to maintain current services. Legislators have said they will add money to the State School Fund if it becomes available by the session’s end, but education advocates have decried the state’s stumbling from one uncertain and inadequate budget to another.
“Instead of a solution, what we are left with is another short-term patch,” Green said. “More than a half-million students in our public schools deserve better than that, and we are going to keep pushing until they get it.”