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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.

Cases: 193732

Reported Deaths: 2572
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah38352591
Washington25592233
Marion22026306
Clackamas17440214
Lane13007148
Jackson10862139
Deschutes896274
Umatilla820284
Linn492969
Yamhill446376
Klamath441164
Polk375752
Malheur351863
Josephine334570
Douglas327271
Benton310019
Jefferson219837
Coos206633
Columbia174427
Union144823
Lincoln137921
Wasco137728
Hood River118730
Crook111322
Morrow110716
Clatsop9858
Baker95414
Tillamook6493
Curry6469
Grant5095
Lake4517
Harney3448
Wallowa1845
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3764405

Reported Deaths: 62573
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123645624067
Riverside2994554594
San Bernardino2967824715
San Diego2785913729
Orange2709835026
Santa Clara1190642096
Kern1091771374
Sacramento1048401686
Fresno1018381688
Alameda879401657
Ventura810011013
San Joaquin732201391
Contra Costa68741805
Stanislaus621421061
Tulare49654839
Monterey43613383
San Mateo42038568
San Francisco36720544
Santa Barbara34337456
Solano32953252
Merced31898460
Sonoma30035320
Imperial28443726
Kings22989246
Placer22679292
San Luis Obispo21308260
Madera16462242
Santa Cruz16264207
Marin14056227
Yolo13910210
Shasta12152226
Butte12026199
El Dorado10168112
Napa987082
Sutter9433112
Yuba626847
San Benito606563
Lassen570624
Tehama557262
Nevada474275
Tuolumne413166
Mendocino410149
Humboldt404641
Amador365847
Lake347643
Glenn239125
Colusa223416
Siskiyou223424
Calaveras212954
Inyo142838
Del Norte13938
Mono12844
Plumas7106
Modoc4994
Mariposa4487
Trinity4005
Sierra1120
Alpine880
Unassigned520
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