Time is right for Joint Committee announcement this week
Monday, April 1, 2019
Joint Committee on Student Success Co-Chairs Rep. Barbara Smith Warner and Sen. Arnie Roblan have been holding public hearings since the beginning of the year to assess how best to improve Oregon schools. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
After more than a year of work, the time is coming for a big announcement from the Joint Committee on Student Success. This could be the week that Co-Chairs Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland) and Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) release details of the committee’s investment and funding priorities.
The full committee agenda for Tuesday, April 2, includes presentations on equity in education from a number of advocacy commissions, as well as a presentation from College Possible. The sub-committee on revenue will meet after those presentations to the full committee to receive informational presentations from the Legislative Revenue Office. That is probably a full schedule for Tuesday. But there is currently no agenda posted for the Thursday, April 4, meeting. And the committee should use Thursday to debut the recommendations for K-12 investment and revenue reform.
To this point, we know only the broad strokes of what the committee seems likely to propose. For investment, the committee has talked favorably about a fund in the style of Ballot Measure 98 or the old School Improvement Fund. If this were the case, districts would likely choose how to target funds based on areas or “buckets” that would have to be addressed, such as well-rounded education or student safety. Those are two guesses, but they were two of the most popular topics that the committee heard during its 2018 tour.
As for revenue reform, the committee has said even less. They will likely propose a new tax, but it’s not clear what kind of tax – Commercial Activity Tax (CAT), Business Activity Tax (BAT), or Value-Added Tax (VAT) – the Committee will endorse. There have been a lot of “CAT, BAT, VAT and that’s that!” jokes around the Capitol recently, and they’re a symptom of the waiting game on revenue.
Then there’s the votes. There are probably enough “yes” votes in the House to meet the constitutionally required 36 to pass a new tax. But the Senate is, historically, less excited about new taxes, and the constitutionally required 18 “yes” votes may be hard to find there. We do not know how much new revenue is being discussed. Various legislators and advocates have said amounts ranging from $500 million to $2 billion in new revenue per biennium.
No matter what the details are, now is the time for the committee to start putting specifics forward. The members have been working for a year, the first chamber deadline is coming, and the next revenue forecast is more than six weeks away in May. Let’s have this week be the week that committee members get the next phase of their work going.