SALEM, OR -- The Oregon Senate doesn't usually meet Fridays until the end of the session when the work load stacks up. But, that's happening now, because Republican members refused to show up Thursday, for a third day. The GOP is protesting a tax on large businesses to raise money for schools.
Senate President Peter Courtney told lawmakers Thursday, I’d hoped to delay Friday sessions for as long as I could, so individuals could return to their districts to meet with constituencies, town hall meetings and things. But, we’re starting to fall really behind in our workload." He went on to say, "Even though we’re moving in to that wonderful Mothers Day weekend, I’m going to have to ask you, ‘would you please come here to be here'."
Republicans don't have a majority and can't stop Democrats from passing a bill that would create a gross receipts tax on the state's largest businesses to generate money for public schools. But they can keep Senators from accomplishing anything, by denying them a quorum. "The Republicans in the Legislature felt like the majority was moving these bills too quickly," Bend State Senator Tim Knopp tells KBND News, "And not giving enough time to have input on what we think are significant bills, and also input in terms of policy." He adds, "We have the opportunity to slow down this process and get it right and we are doing that to make sure we have the best product that we can that supports our school students, our families, small businesses, and taxpayers."
Knopp believes the funding bill would impose a sales tax on businesses and doesn't address PERS reform, "Although it says that this money can't be used to pay PERS costs, the money that used to go to educational resources will just be siphoned off to go to PERS debt payments, and it's going to be the same outcome." Knopp says, "It's going to be paid by consumers, and that tax is not particularly equitable. If a business is making no money, it still gets taxed."
The Bend Republican says he's committed to staying at the Capitol and is willing to entertain any possible solutions put forth that could result in meaningful PERS reform and ensure education funding, "I'm going to need to have face-to-face meetings with the people that are most important in this process, and they are here, not somewhere else, at this time." He says the problems will not be solved until everyone is heard, "The Republican caucus has been united in our efforts, and we have been working together to make sure that voices of our communities are being heard, and that these bills, they will either be more bipartisan, or some of them would not advance at all that would affect the Constitutional rights of our constituents."
He doesn't know how long the impasse will last, "Details matter, and we want good policy, not just good politics."