The 2023 Oregon legislative session came to an end in late June. It was a session that will be remembered for a walkout by the minority party in an effort to derail priorities of the majority — the longest in Oregon history. While this anti-democratic ploy sowed chaos and distrust, important legislation on economic justice nevertheless made it across the finish line.
Certainly, there were disappointments flowing from the session. In the days to come, we will review instances where the 2023 legislative session missed an opportunity to advance economic justice, or even took steps backward.
But for now, here are some of the key wins from the session in terms of advancing economic justice. Some of these wins, we’re pleased to say, got us closer to the goals outlined in our Action Plan for the People: How to Build Economic Justice in Oregon.
Boost incomes: The Oregon Kids’ Credit will help vulnerable families with young children make ends meet
One of the most inspiring achievements of the 2023 legislative session is the creation of the Oregon Kids’ Credit. House Bill 3235 establishes a new child tax credit that will help families with young children living paycheck to paycheck cover essentials like food and rent. The credit will be available for families with children under six years of age and with income of no more than $30,000. The Oregon Kids’ Credit could help some 55,000 children, disproportionately Black, Latino, Indigenous, and children in rural areas. By supporting families during a child’s critical developmental years, the Oregon Kids’ Credit helps ensure every child in Oregon has a strong foundation for life.
A lot more is needed to ensure all Oregonians enjoy economic security, but creating the Oregon Kids’ Credit is an important step in that direction.
OCPP is proud to have been one of the leaders in the effort to create the Oregon Kids’ Credit. Credit is due to the sponsors of the legislation, specifically chief sponsors Representatives Grayber, Reynolds, Smith, and Valderrama, and Senator Campos. Also, this win would not have happened without the terrific group of coalition partners that sent out action alerts, testified, and kept the pressure on lawmakers.
Advance tax justice: Oregon will begin collecting tax data on race and ethnicity
Oregon became the first state in the nation that will collect data on the racial and ethnic identity of tax filers with the enactment of Senate Bill 1. An entirely voluntary question, tax filers will be able to mark up to 3 options from nearly 40 racial and ethnic identities. This data will fill a big gap in our knowledge of how the tax system, and particular provisions within, affect different racial and ethnic groups.
The information generated through this legislation will help lawmakers improve our tax system in decades to come. OCPP is proud to have co-led this work with the Oregon Education Association and worked with the Senate President’s office in advancing this legislation. Like everything we do here at OCPP, we could not have done this without a stellar group of community partners that helped push through this legislation: the Coalition of Communities of Color, NAYA Action Fund, SEIU 503, Tax Fairness Oregon, and the Urban League of Portland.
Boost worker power: The legislature took key steps to protect workers and assess compensation
Partner organizations led the way in achieving important wins for workers this legislative session, and OCPP was proud to offer support along the way.
- Senate Bill 907 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who refuse to do work that would expose them to serious injury or death arising from hazardous conditions in the workplace.
- Senate Bill 283 takes several steps to improve the working conditions and pay of classified education workers, such as clerical workers, custodians, food service workers, and library staff. With this legislation, Oregon aims to address the shortage in the K-12 education workforce and to create a more equitable and inclusive education infrastructure.
- Senate Bill 592 protects workers by strengthening penalties for health and safety violations, and requires the state to thoroughly investigate any work related fatality, as well as employers with repeated violations of workplace safety rules.
Solidarity: Legislative session produced other important wins for Oregonians
Economic justice requires raising incomes, boosting worker power, and advancing tax justice, but reforms in other areas are necessary to ensure all Oregonians live with dignity. We applaud our partners who led campaigns that strengthened tenant protections (SB 611), strengthened reproductive and gender justice (HB 2002), and increased funding for public defenders. (SB 337). These are bills that OCPP endorsed.
Stay tuned for more of our commentary on the 2023 Oregon legislative session.