The Democrat supermajority flexed their muscles last Wednesday when they passed a massive $2.8 billion hidden sales tax without a single Republican vote.
The final amendment for HB 3427 — the comprehensive tax and spend bill for education — was a 45-page “gut and stuff” that replaced the contents of the base bill with new language. Introduced a mere hour before the committee meeting began, the newly amended bill passed after only an hour and a half of invited testimony and no opportunity for public comment. Democrats were so eager to pass HB 3427 that two days later they pushed the bill to House floor for a full vote with many questions still unanswered, and the financial analysis of the new bill yet to be completed. The bill passed the House on party lines.
The final bill was the product of backroom negotiations between Democrat leaders and big corporations. Republicans, who had repeatedly expressed concern over the ill-conceived tax scheme, were completely excluded from these conversations and, more importantly, so were the Oregonians who will bear the burden of higher prices on the goods and services they count on.
I might have reminded Democrats and their big corporate friends if they had cared to ask was that Oregonians soundly defeated Measure 97, a gross receipt tax, just three years ago. The will of the people couldn’t have been clearer: Oregonians do not want a sales tax. But unfortunately for Oregonians, Democrats do.
In fact, Republicans made a motion on the House floor to consider two PERS reform bills, House Bills 2993 and 3128, and a Resolution that would require the Legislature to pass the education budget before any other. Democrats voted to dismiss the bills without consideration. Instead, they forced a vote on a HB 3427 that pits legislators concerned about the ever-increasing cost of living for working families against students. I do not accept that choice. I believe we can fund our schools and tackle the tough issues.
My goal has always been to find equitable and fiscally responsible ways to fully fund essential services. I deeply wanted to vote yes on a bill that funded our schools because our students are worth it, and they are counting on us. They are also counting on us to cultivate an economy with living wage jobs when they are ready to enter the workforce. We need to ensure that the actions we take now don’t saddle working Oregonians with costs they cannot afford or put out of business the many local companies who could employ them. This requires slow and thoughtful action that accounts for students, teachers, low-income and working Oregonians, small business, and PERS reform.
I find it deeply unsettling that a process that has been underway for nearly two years was rammed across the finish line with so many unanswered questions about its impacts to working families and small businesses in District 15 and across the state.
Tuesday, Senate Republicans denied quorum to block voting on the bill and are demanding real PERS reform now. I hope the Senate can rise above political pressure to do the right thing for education, and for Oregonians, by taking more time to perfect this bill.