SALEM, Ore. (AP) — House Speaker Tina Kotek is introducing a plan to halve cut the tax rebate Oregon residents receive.
The Portland Democrat announced the idea Thursday, the day after state economists revealed that the "kicker" tax rebate could be the largest in state history.
At the Capitol, @OregonGovBrown says she’d support diverting a portion of the kicker only if it pays down part of PERS debt. She’s cool to a @TinaKotek proposal to apply it to a variety of transportation projects. #orpol #orleg pic.twitter.com/EsrbpsOxDK— Chris Lehman (@CapitolCurrents) May 16, 2019
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that in a bill Kotek introduced Thursday morning roughly half of the estimated $1.4 billion tax rebate would be kept by the state and spent on a set of transportation initiatives the speaker argues will benefit public safety, air quality, and job creation.
The proposal has few precedents — the personal income tax kicker has only been redirected once, as lawmakers grappled with a budget shortfall in 1991. And it's not an easy task to accomplish. In order for her bill to pass, Kotek needs two-thirds support in both the House and Senate.
Under Oregon's Constitution, the unique kicker tax rebate is triggered when tax revenues for a two-year budget cycle come in more than 2 percent above economists' forecast from the start of the cycle.
Under the plan, $260 million would go toward seismic upgrades of the Abernethy Bridge on Interstate 205. Those upgrades are part of a transportation package lawmakers passed in 2017, but the bridge work is waiting on the possible implementation of tolling before it moves forward. Kotek said Thursday she'd like to begin sooner.
Beyond the bridge, Kotek is proposing spending roughly $245 million on an existing "Clean Diesel Engine Fund" to help freight carriers in Oregon transition to cleaner-burning diesel engines. Both California and Washington have strict diesel standards, which have pushed higher-emissions engines into Oregon.
"If you look at Washington and California, they've only been able to make their transition because they put a significant amount of resource into it," she said.
An additional roughly $245 million would go into a new "Zero Emission Fund" which would create the infrastructure to help the state transition to zero-emission vehicles, like electric cars.
Both the diesel and zero-emission funds would be subject to annual audits.
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