Governor Kate Brown proposed placing a $1,000 cap on the $1.4 billion tax “kicker” that Oregonians are set to receive next year, diverting about $500 million to split between housing and broadband projects for rural areas and easing PERS costs on local school districts.
On Thursday, May 31, Brown announced the plan, calling it “fiscally responsible and […] common sense.” The “kicker” is a unique form of tax rebate in Oregon, issued when state revenue rises more than 2 percent above projections, then refunding the difference to taxpayers.
Some Democrats have criticized the disparity between individual kicker payouts. The $1.4 billion total is of record size, but the rebate itself would have a median value of $338, and wealthy Oregonians could receive up to $14,000, 40 times the median amount.
The $1,000 cap would limit rebates for 20 percent of all taxpayers, about 331,000 people making over $55,000 per year. 93 percent of those are people reporting incomes above $96,000 per year.
Other plans to use portions of the tax kicker, like House Speaker Tina Kotek’s plan to use half of the kicker for transportation upgrades and electric vehicle fleet projects, have come up against Brown’s insistence that any plan to use the kicker money should address PERS costs. Kotek has not yet responded if she will support Brown’s proposal.
Brown’s adherence to focusing on these costs may also be related to the role she played in negotiating the Senate Republicans to return from a walkout they staged over that exact issue earlier in May, after which Democrats made promises to focus on PERS.
Senate President Peter Courtney’s response to the Governor’s plan, communicated through a staffer, was brief.
“Give me 20 votes,” Courtney reportedly said.
By Ian MacRonald