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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: 39794

Reported Deaths: 627
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah8588154
Marion5509105
Washington538570
Umatilla326743
Clackamas294265
Lane212825
Malheur184733
Jackson15106
Deschutes106213
Yamhill94415
Linn74514
Polk63115
Jefferson5939
Morrow5406
Lincoln50813
Union4562
Benton4166
Klamath3973
Wasco33215
Douglas3164
Hood River2681
Josephine2572
Columbia2471
Clatsop2350
Coos2220
Baker1122
Crook832
Tillamook700
Curry561
Wallowa402
Lake350
Sherman180
Harney130
Gilliam110
Grant100
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 879645

Reported Deaths: 16982
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2893666877
Riverside640751272
San Bernardino597791021
Orange570711410
San Diego52735853
Kern33448410
Fresno30051429
Sacramento24425468
Santa Clara23355378
Alameda22738433
San Joaquin21187484
Contra Costa18157234
Stanislaus17341392
Tulare17120275
Ventura13901160
Imperial12475335
San Francisco11901133
Monterey1109183
San Mateo10810157
Santa Barbara9608119
Merced9314152
Sonoma8934129
Kings815983
Solano711774
Marin7019124
Madera488673
San Luis Obispo400932
Placer397852
Yolo307356
Butte301950
Santa Cruz270623
Napa188214
Sutter179612
Shasta172329
San Benito140314
El Dorado12834
Yuba125310
Mendocino110321
Tehama7748
Lassen7571
Lake67015
Glenn6393
Nevada5828
Humboldt5549
Colusa5456
Calaveras33317
Amador31316
Tuolumne2494
Inyo21515
Siskiyou1840
Mono1752
Del Norte1731
Mariposa782
Plumas540
Modoc270
Trinity230
Sierra60
Alpine30
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