OCPP 2023 Legislative Agenda: Advancing Economic Justice

OCPP 2023 Legislative Agenda: Advancing Economic Justice

There are important steps Oregon can take during the 2023 legislative session to advance economic justice.

OCPP 2023 Legislative Agenda: Advancing Economic Justice

There are important steps Oregon can take during the 2023 legislative session to advance economic justice. Below are our policy priorities for the upcoming legislative session. To view our longer-term agenda, read our Action Plan for the People: How to Build Economic Justice in Oregon.

For more information on our legislative agenda, please contact Daniel Hauser at 503-970-4614, dhauser@ocpp.org.

Raise Oregonians’ Income

Oregon Kids’ Credit (HB 3235): Children and families across Oregon are struggling with economic insecurity, made worse by rising prices. The most direct way to address this is to give these families more money to afford rent, food, and other basic needs. Creating an Oregon Kids’ Credit, a refundable state tax credit, would be an effective and efficient way to deliver resources to the families in greatest need. Such a policy would also advance equity, as research indicates child tax credits disproportionately benefit Black, Indigenous, and other families of color.

Oregon Worker Relief Fund: Oregon should ensure that all workers, including undocumented workers, have access to support in times of emergency. Oregon established the Oregon Worker Relief Fund (OWRF) during the pandemic to address the fact that federal and state safety net programs exclude Oregon’s undocumented immigrant workers. The OWRF provided a lifeline to families that lost work and income during the pandemic. Oregon should recognize the vital role the OWRF plays in Oregon’s critical social infrastructure by permanently and adequately investing in this fund.

Investments in Child Care (various): Oregon should build on recent investments and fully fund the state’s child care programs. All families should have access to quality, affordable child care that is appropriate to their work and family situation. And all child care workers deserve to have the security of a living wage. OCPP supports the Child Care for Oregon coalition’s legislative agenda.

Guaranteed Income Study (HB 2738): Oregon needs a Guaranteed Income, which would establish an income floor by providing unrestricted cash to families struggling to make ends meet. Other states have already started this work by first conducting a state feasibility study. Oregon should do the same, studying how best to structure a Guaranteed Income policy for Oregonians.

People’s Housing Assistance Fund (SB 603): Pre-pandemic, more than two in five Oregon households lacked the resources needed to afford the basics. For many, housing is the biggest monthly expense. SB 603 would create the People’s Housing Assistance Fund Demonstration Program, which would provide $1,000 monthly payments to about 1,000 Oregon households struggling to afford the rising costs of housing over two years. It would require a study to serve as a roadmap for how Oregon could establish a guaranteed income, ensuring every Oregonian is more economically secure.

Boost Worker Power

Long-term Care Workforce Standards Board (SB 602): Oregon workers provide essential daily care to older adults and people with disabilities, supported by private or public dollars. They are paid low wages, which often do not allow them to meet their basic needs. The long-term care workforce struggles with high turnover, to the detriment of people relying on services. Oregon should improve job quality, recruitment, and retention in this industry by establishing a representative board to inform standards for wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Right to Refuse Dangerous Work (SB 907): Oregon workers have a right to a safe work environment. They should not be required to work in hazardous conditions, including when temperatures risk serious injury or serious deterioration of a worker’s health. Oregon should strengthen worker protections by requiring employers to mitigate dangerous work conditions, offer a safe alternative environment, or allow workers to stop working without the threat of retaliation.

School Employee Task Force (SB 283-3): There is a high turnover rate among public school employees, due to low pay and other terms of work. The instability of this workforce is detrimental to the workers, the schools, and the students. Oregon should strengthen the public education workforce by creating a task force on compensation to help recruitment and retention of classified and licensed staff. The state should also boost job quality by ensuring a minimum number of hours, providing “just cause” for dismissal, investing in training, and ensuring benefits.

Cannabis Workers’ Rights (HB 3183): Unlike most other workers, cannabis farm workers aren’t protected by federal law when they organize to improve their working conditions. The problem extends to cannabis retail workers, who commonly do farm-related tasks. The challenges they face include working with hazardous chemicals and dangerous equipment without adequate protections. Oregon should require OLCC-licensed businesses to participate in labor peace agreements, which would enable workers to join together to insist on accountability to wage, hour, health, and safety standards.

Advance Tax Justice

Kicker for Working Families: The current kicker gives a massive tax break to the most well off, while providing little or no help to those who need it the most. Right now, we are on course to see a record-shattering kicker that will cost nearly $3.5 billion. Should that come to pass, the legislature should, as the Constitution allows, suspend the kicker and use those funds more wisely. Distributing a “Kicker for Working Families” that would be equal for all Oregonians who make less than $500k for joint filers ($250k for single filers) would provide the vast majority of Oregonians with a larger kicker.

Racial and Ethnic Data on Oregon Income Tax Form (SB 1): The Oregon Department of Revenue lacks the data needed to assess how the tax system and tax breaks impact different racial, and ethnic groups. Adding a simple form to the end of Oregon’s personal income taxes asking tax filers for information such as their race and ethnicity would provide lawmakers the information needed to assess Oregon’s personal income taxes and identify areas of greatest inequity, providing a roadmap for where to target policy reforms.

Complete Reporting (HB 2674): There is a long history of large, multinational corporations shifting profits to low-tax countries to avoid taxes owed in the United States, including to Oregon. Complete reporting would require multinational corporations to include in tax calculations their worldwide business activity, instead of just the activity occurring within the United States — a move that would prevent many tax avoidance techniques. Instituting complete reporting would force corporations to pay what they owe.

Higher Tax Rates on the Rich (HB 2673): Oregon cannot achieve economic justice or eliminate racial disparities without taxing the rich. A simple and effective way to tax the rich is to increase personal income tax rates for high-earners and create a new tax bracket for millionaires.

Oregon Earned Income Tax Credit for all Tribal Members: Due to a federal law prohibiting the state taxation of income earned on a reservation by a tribal member who lives on the reservation, Oregon has inadvertently excluded many tribal members from the state Earned Income Tax Credit. This accidental exclusion is a mistake that should be repaired with a technical fix in the 2023 legislative session. [Update: Collaboration between the Oregon Department of Revenue and tribal representatives has found a way to address this issue without legislation!]

Common Sense Reform of Oregon’s Biggest Housing Subsidy: The Mortgage Interest Deduction is Oregon’s largest housing subsidy, costing the state more than $1 billion in the most recent budget period. Most of that money flows to wealthier homeowners. Lawmakers should limit the deduction for high-income households and eliminate the deduction for second homes, freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars per biennium to address the housing crisis facing communities across Oregon.

Work in Solidarity

We are endorsing and supporting the campaigns listed below.

Food for All Oregon (SB 610): Food is a human right. Through this legislation, all Oregonians will have access to the food they need.

TANF Reform: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is an essential part of Oregon’s safety net, ensuring a level of stability for Oregon’s poorest families. Unfortunately, continued underfunding of the program has prevented most families who could benefit from it from qualifying. Oregon lawmakers should enact proposed reforms to Oregon’s TANF program that would expand participation in the program while delivering additional cash to families that qualify.

In Defense of Humanity (SB 413 + SB 817): Every Oregonian must receive their constitutional right to legal representation, and a package of investments in our public defense system and support for public defenders will help realize that vision.

Indigenous Language Justice (SB 612 + SB 911): Every Oregonian deserves to understand and be understood, yet language interpretation is inadequate for many of our neighbors, particularly the Oregonians who speak Indigenous languages from present-day Mexico and Guatemala. Investing in translation services and other structures will ensure greater participation in our economy and public services.

Keep Oregon Workers Safe (SB 592): Oregonians have a right to a safe work environment. Unfortunately, many experience injury and even death in tragic events that could have been prevented by their boss. Black and Latino workers bear the brunt of employer recklessness. To assure Oregonians are not harmed at work, Oregon should increase the paltry penalties currently imposed for health and safety violations, and thoroughly investigate businesses where a death has occurred.

Reproductive and Gender Justice: We can ensure Oregonians have access to abortion and gender-affirming care by, among other things, closing gaps in insurance coverage and protecting patients and providers from criminalization.

Stable Homes (various): Many Oregonians are facing a nearly 15 percent rent increase, leaving them one missed paycheck away from eviction and houselessness. Lawmakers should stabilize housing for our families by preventing rents from rising an unreasonable amount, strengthening eviction laws, and enacting a landlord registration program.

End Opportunity Zones (HB 3039): Oregon need not follow the federal mistake of creating a set of three capital gains tax breaks for investments in so-called “Opportunity Zones.” These tax breaks largely flow to rich investors, fail to prove community benefit, and pull millions of dollars out of public services. Lawmakers should disconnect Oregon from the Opportunity Zones tax breaks.

Family Financial Protection Act (HB 2008): Oregon lags behind other states in consumer protection regulations. This legislation would provide basic safeguards to protect certain assets of low-income families from debt collection. These protections will ensure Oregonians are not deprived of their ability to meet their basic needs.

OCPP

OCPP

Written by staff at the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

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