Oregon Senator Sues Governor Brown, State Revenue Department

An Oregon state senator has filed a lawsuit against top lawmakers and the governor, saying the passage of a controversial March tax measure violated the state constitution.

Posted: Jun 20, 2018 4:43 PM
Updated: Jun 20, 2018 5:17 PM

By TOM JAMES , Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon state senator has filed a lawsuit against top lawmakers and the governor, saying the passage of a controversial March tax measure violated the state constitution.

Brian Boquist, a Republican from Dallas, Oregon, filed the suit Tuesday in state tax court, naming the Oregon Department of Revenue as well as Gov. Kate Brown and the heads of both halves of the state legislature in their official capacities, seeking to block the implementation of Senate Bill 1528.

The move amounts to the latest Republican objection to the bill, which passed the Legislature in March, and stopped a federal tax deduction created by President Donald Trump from automatically lowering Oregonians' state income taxes.

Because Oregon uses residents' federal tax numbers to calculate how much they owe the state, the federal deduction was set to effectively copy directly onto Oregonians' state taxes, automatically lowering them as well and costing the state about $217 million in its first two years.

The new law let taxpayers keep the federal deduction, but stopped it from copying over. Legislative Democrats including Senate president Peter Courtney cast the move as a fix and pushed it through over strong objections from Republicans.

Boquist said Wednesday that amounted to an effective tax increase and should have triggered a constitutional requirement for a three-fifths majority vote to pass, instead of a simple majority.

"No one is arguing the facts," Boquist said. "They passed it... The question is whether that complies with the state constitution."

A spokesman for Brown declined to comment on the suit, citing its pending status, and Senate President Peter Courtney likewise generally declined to comment beyond saying through a spokesman that the suit had been expected.

Central to the debate — and the lawsuit — is the question of which historical baseline the new law should be evaluated against.

During debates in the legislature, Democrats generally compared the law to taxes in the state before the Trump tax cut.

Compared to tax levels at that time, no one's state taxes will go up under the new law, because it only stops the new federal deduction from being copied onto state taxes, according to nonpartisan legislative economists.

But Republicans broadly objected to using that older baseline.

Instead, prominent Republicans argued that because 1528 was introduced after the Trump overhaul became law, it should only be compared to the lower tax that eligible residents would have paid when the new deduction was copied onto their state taxes.

Relative to that lower baseline, even bringing residents' taxes back to the level they were at before the Trump tax deduction would be a tax increase, opponents argued at the time.

At its heart, said Boquist Wednesday, his suit seeks legal blessing for that reasoning, in the form of a judgment voiding the new state law.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 3927

Reported Deaths: 148
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah104058
Marion90525
Washington69017
Clackamas29010
Deschutes1190
Linn1169
Umatilla1113
Polk9610
Lane672
Yamhill657
Jackson570
Benton555
Clatsop450
Klamath410
Coos310
Malheur280
Josephine251
Jefferson250
Douglas250
Wasco181
Columbia160
Hood River120
Morrow120
Lincoln90
Tillamook60
Curry60
Union60
Crook50
Wallowa20
Sherman10
Grant10
Harney10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94020

Reported Deaths: 3754
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles450172106
San Diego6559249
Riverside6464290
Orange5336131
San Bernardino4365176
Alameda284793
Santa Clara2617139
San Francisco236740
San Mateo183376
Kern182429
Tulare164175
Santa Barbara155112
Fresno144822
Contra Costa132136
Sacramento129356
Imperial114523
Ventura91230
San Joaquin75233
Stanislaus62928
Kings5172
Sonoma4824
Solano45520
Monterey3958
Marin38814
San Luis Obispo2581
Merced2516
Santa Cruz1922
Yolo19022
Placer1849
Napa1013
Humboldt932
Madera842
El Dorado740
San Benito702
Nevada411
Sutter402
Shasta364
Butte340
Mono341
Yuba281
Del Norte230
Mendocino210
Inyo191
Mariposa151
Calaveras130
Lake120
Glenn120
Amador100
Siskiyou61
Colusa50
Plumas40
Tuolumne30
Tehama31
Alpine20
Lassen20
Trinity10
Sierra10
Unassigned00
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