Oregon Senate passes 'Student Success Act' tax on high-earning businesses

The Oregon Senate has approved a multibillion dollar education tax designed to boost student performance and decrease class sizes.

Posted: May 13, 2019 4:53 PM
Updated: May 13, 2019 5:39 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Senate Republicans ended a weeklong walkout Monday and returned to the Oregon Capitol after Democratic leadership agreed to major concessions on some of the most high-profile bills this session.

Statement from the Oregon Education Association (OEA) on the bill's passing:

“Less than a week ago, tens of thousands of educators, students, parents, and supporters gathered in one voice in nearly 100 communities across the state to call on lawmakers to do prioritize Oregon students,” says John Larson, high school English teacher and president of the Oregon Education Association. “Together, we are making history. Educators and public school families can start to breathe a sigh of relief tonight, knowing that instead of worrying about budget cuts, we can instead focus on the educational needs of our students and our future.”

“This $2 billion increase to the education budget means our schools will be able to afford to invest in students for the first time in decades,” says Larson. “Because of these dedicated funds, we’ll be able to give students more individual attention and smaller class sizes, we’ll restore programs like art, music, and PE, and we’ll be able to provide the mental and behavioral health supports our students so desperately need.”

In an earlier statement, Larson also said the following:

“I am extremely disappointed to see that gun safety has taken a back seat in the Oregon Legislature today. There have been eight school shootings already this year in our country. CNN has reported that the United States has 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined. Our children, even kindergarteners, are forced to undergo active shooter drills at school -- not just fire and earthquake drills. Gun safety is a national crisis and it’s unnerving and unconscionable to delay this legislation.

"The Oregon Education Association will continue to fight for the safety of our students and educators. School should be a safe place to learn and grow. Without passing laws to increase gun safety here in Oregon, that sanctuary will continue to be under threat.”

Democrats scrapped bills on gun control and vaccines in exchange for Republicans' return to Senate and their agreement not to pull a similar maneuver in the future.

Three Republicans returned to the Senate, one more than what's needed to formally conduct business. The chamber was able to approve by an 18-11 vote a $1 billion per year school funding tax. It previously passed the House and now heads to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature. It would raise $1 billion per year through a half a percent tax on Oregon's wealthiest businesses via a .057% tax on gross receipts for businesses with $1 million or more in sales.

The agreement to move forward with the education tax vote marks a huge win for the Republican minority, which has remained largely powerless this session against a Democratic governor and legislative supermajority.

The vaccine measure, which was already approved by the House, would have ended families' ability to opt-out of school vaccination requirements for personal, philosophical or religious reasons. If passed, Oregon would have had one of the strongest vaccine laws in the country at a time when the national measles count has hit its highest in decades.

"This bill was about saving lives, protecting children and ensuring our shared immunity from dangerous and preventable diseases," said Rep. Cheri Helt, the Republican from Bend behind the vaccine proposal. "It's disappointing that once again the loudest, most extreme voices in our politics prevailed and the sensible-center and thoughtful policy-making lost."

Democrats also agreed to squash a gun control package that would have allowed businesses to raise the purchasing age to 21 and require gun owners to safely store their weapons. Both bills drew considerable opposition from a vocal Republican minority.

Senate Republicans walked out May 6 to delay a vote on the multibillion dollar school funding tax. They said they refused to vote on any new funding for education without a solution to the state's increasing public pension debt.

The protest occurred the week of a massive statewide teacher walkout over classroom funding. Oregon pays far less per student compared to other states despite the fact that school funding takes up the largest portion of the state budget.

Education has been a major budgetary and legislative priority for Democrats this session.

Opponents said the tax will be passed onto consumers and that the state shouldn't increase funding without first addressing Oregon's spiraling pension debt.

"No doubt we need the money," said Cliff Bentz, a Republican from Eastern Oregon. "This bill is the wrong way to raise it."

Legislative leaders unveiled a pension plan last week that would shield employers from the impact of upcoming interest rate hikes, though it garnered significant opposition from unions.

Educators cheered the funding boost, which they say is sorely needed to combat years of cuts that have forced schools to slash staff and programs like arts, music and P.E.

"Many of us in Oregon have spent our entire adult lives waiting for the day we would fix our broken school funding model," Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, in a statement. "That day is now on the horizon."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313161

Reported Deaths: 3594
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah51245642
Washington34995276
Marion32577393
Clackamas26570271
Lane23989246
Jackson20977257
Deschutes16623102
Umatilla12602125
Douglas10712188
Linn1046886
Josephine8659165
Yamhill744999
Klamath643491
Polk623570
Malheur479467
Benton461927
Coos412069
Columbia324237
Jefferson313746
Lincoln276330
Union272737
Wasco239039
Crook212338
Clatsop211725
Tillamook181523
Baker174421
Morrow167921
Curry166817
Hood River163035
Harney78916
Grant7558
Lake6768
Wallowa50811
Gilliam1374
Sherman1283
Wheeler651
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4644566

Reported Deaths: 68019
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles144512125852
Riverside3579884804
San Diego3495814009
San Bernardino3472035506
Orange3146225354
Sacramento1503072089
Santa Clara1405641841
Fresno1358611888
Kern1358421515
Alameda1162141329
Ventura976901120
San Joaquin973871615
Contra Costa95727924
Stanislaus806991234
Tulare72969896
San Mateo52239607
San Francisco51907605
Monterey49465565
Solano44151312
Santa Barbara43112500
Sonoma39441378
Merced39370535
Placer36487364
Imperial34261755
Kings30124284
San Luis Obispo28300313
Madera21707258
Butte21307230
Shasta20683276
Santa Cruz20151211
Yolo19143239
Marin17106242
El Dorado16004127
Sutter13094153
Napa1226895
Yuba926061
Nevada847685
Humboldt829587
Tehama823784
San Benito709067
Mendocino685575
Lassen637627
Tuolumne615393
Lake603687
Amador492259
Glenn398030
Siskiyou389541
Calaveras342266
Del Norte336034
Colusa290918
Inyo166539
Mono14935
Plumas12406
Mariposa99712
Trinity72010
Modoc6278
Sierra1980
Unassigned1650
Alpine1000
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