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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Mixed Day For House Democrats: PERS Passes, Tax Hike Fails

M.O. Stevens
Wikimedia -

It was a day of drama in the Oregon House Wednesday. First, majority Democrats failed to round up enough “yes” votes for a $275 million tax hike. Then, Democrats scored a victory by sending their version of a public pension cost-cutting proposal to Governor John Kitzhaber.

The plan targeted upper income earners and corporations. But tax hikes require a three-fifths vote and Democrats needed at least two Republicans to cross the aisle to move their measure forward. That didn't happen.

So lawmakers agreed to pass a drastically scaled-back version of the tax package. Peter Buckley, the Democrats' chief budget writer in the House, told colleagues the tax hike could resurface in the other chamber. "I look forward to working with the Senate on additional proposals having to do with revenue to reach the $275 million goal that we have in the co-chair's budget, or exceed it, if there are wonderful ideas in that regard."

The failure to pass the tax hike was a clear political setback for Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek. But she soon scored a victory. The House narrowly passed a bill crafted by Democrats that would curb cost of living increases for retired public employees. Republicans said it didn’t go far enough to reign in public pension costs.