What Has 2017 Meant for Oregon Small Business Owners So Far?

Date: July 18, 2017

Dear NFIB/Oregon Members,

Oregon’s 2017 legislative session began with a relatively quiet and noncontroversial tone compared with years past when lawmakers came out swinging on issues like carbon reduction and minimum wage.

Oregon’s 2017 legislative session began with a relatively quiet and noncontroversial tone compared with years past when lawmakers came out swinging on issues like carbon reduction and minimum wage.

Driving this short-lived spirit of compromise were two very important legislative goals: balancing Oregon’s state budget and passing a majoring transportation funding package. Either of these tasks would be difficult in its own right, but trying to accomplish both was particularly daunting. Despite projected record revenues for the next two-year budget cycle – about $1.5 billion more than Oregon has ever collected in taxes – and during a time when unemployment is low and the economy continues to grow,

Despite projected record revenues for the next two-year budget cycle – about $1.5 billion more than Oregon has ever collected in taxes – and during a time when unemployment is low and the economy continues to grow, state government is growing even faster. By the time the May Revenue Forecast came out the state was estimating that, on top of the new tax revenue, Oregon was going to be $1.4 billion short of being able to maintain current service levels. Efforts to pass a new gross receipts tax failed to garner support from the three-fifths of legislators needed to pass a tax bill, marking the second time in less than a year that this ill-fated concept was rejected in Oregon.

NFIB was part of a large coalition of business groups that defeated Measure 97, but was one of only a handful of business groups to brave the crowds of proponents to publicly testify in opposition to HB 2830, the failed “Commercial Activities Tax” proposal. To balance the budget, the legislature ended up passing a number of bills consisting of modest tax increases and budget cuts. Nearly every Oregonian agrees that Oregon’s transportation infrastructure is in trouble. As a result, a joint committee was formed to construct a major transportation funding package.

The final work product from this committee was HB 2017, a bill that raises and spends $5.3 billion over next several years. It includes increases in the gas tax, increased title and registration fees, a sales taxes on cars and bicycles, and even a payroll tax on employee wages. This combination of taxes and fees proved to be “a bridge to far” to earn NFIB’s support, but the bill passed both chambers with bipartisan support. Overwhelmingly, NFIB members believe that Oregon has a spending problem and needs to learn to control costs. The reason we find ourselves in budget holes, with underperforming schools and crumbling infrastructure, is that the Legislature consistently fails to properly prioritize spending. We have the money to fix some of these things, but we cannot keep saying “yes” to everything. Be on the lookout for updates on other issues from the 2017 legislative session in upcoming newsletters!

Anthony K. Smith
NFIB/Oregon State Director

 

Related Content: Small Business News | Economy | Oregon

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