Legislative Update: Revenue, Budgets, Homecare, and Stable Homes

by Melissa Unger

This week the State’s revenue forecast came out and put an even finer point on the urgent need for corporations in Oregon to pay their fair share. While revenues are up due to higher personal income tax returns – it’s possible that the kicker will kick next year – we simply don’t have the revenue we need to invest in smaller class sizes, more access to healthcare, and better services for seniors and people with disabilities. In fact, according to the latest revenue forecast, Oregon is $1.4 billion short of simply funding programs at existing levels.

This shortfall is due primarily to the fact that Oregon has one of the lowest corporate taxes in the country. Corporations contribute just 6 percent of the state’s revenues, and the rest comes from people like you and me. 

Tell your legislator we can’t wait; we need revenue reform now: http://bit.ly/2qtqK1E

In an effort to address this problem, a group of legislators released a revenue reform framework that calls for a modernized Consumer Activities Tax to be paid by corporations. This “CAT” tax is combined with cost-saving measures and cuts to taxes paid by low- and middle-income families. House Speaker Tina Kotek released a detailed proposal based on this framework that would raise $2 billion in new revenue, dedicate funding to schools and essential public services, and have a minimal economic impact on the state. 

These proposals have taken the legislative session in a more productive direction, and we look forward to working with legislators to prevent cuts to services. However, it’s critical that we remember the purpose of this fight, which is not just to fill the budget hole but to shrink Oregon’s class sizes, expand access to services for seniors and people with disabilities, and properly fund the many public services that SEIU 503 members provide. We can’t forget that the status quo, even before the deficit, was inadequate and to move forward Oregon needs new revenue. 

IMG_5922 copyA delegation of SEIU 503 members delivered more than 500 post cards to legislators on Thursday, asking for investments in education, healthcare, and public services. See more on Facebook or on twitter at #oregoncantwait.

Agency Budgets
Despite progress on revenue, the fact remains that the agency budget picture is scary. Child Welfare Services, for example, is facing cuts at a time when the program desperately needs investment in order to secure better outcomes for the state’s most vulnerable children. DHS is facing cuts to in-home services for seniors just as the baby boomer generation is set to retire. SEIU members are also facing difficult bargaining positions. Steps and COLAs are unlikely in the public sector, and homecare workers and PSWs are facing hours reductions. This is yet another reason to keep fighting for revenue reform.

HB 2004 would end no-cause evictions and prevent out-of-control rent increases. The bill is due for a hearing in the Senate on May 22. The House has already offered its support for the legislation, and there is reason to be optimistic about its path in the Senate. However, the landlord lobby’s opposition to the bill has been loud. We need to show our support for stable housing reform if we are going to get through the Senate.

Ask your legislators to vote yes on HB 2004: http://bit.ly/stablehomesoregon

HB 2387, Oregon Affordable Drug Prices Act
The bill will lower prescription drug prices by requiring rebates from pharmaceutical manufacturers when they overcharge consumers. Drug companies will be required to open up their books to show how much they are spending on research and development compared to advertising. Earlier this month the bill passed out of committee and is now in the Ways & Means committee.

Ask your legislators to vote yes on HB 2387: http://p2a.co/XbCOkoe

Join us in Salem on June 6
As the legislative session moves into its final stretch, SEIU 503 members will need to show up and fight for our priorities. One way to get involved is to attend the Oregon Can’t Wait rally on June 6. The rally is from Noon to 1 pm in Salem and will include SEIU members from around the state, teachers, nurses, and community partners — all fighting together for revenue reform. Register online at: https://fastfor.ms/E58F2

If you can’t make the rally, writing and calling your legislator is the best way to make sure your voice is heard. We need all of our voices speaking together as we fight for SEIU 503 members’ vision of a just and vibrant society for all Oregonians.

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