On the Scene: Legislative update 2017

Corporate taxes, transparency and tiny homes take center stage on Tuesday.

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Corporate Tax Reform

Rep. Mark Hass described his corporate tax proposal to a packed hearing on Tuesday. Hass said the proposal was the result of weeks of discussion but alternative proposals were welcome.

Hass’ proposal would exempt businesses with revenue less than $150,000. Businesses with revenue between $150,000 and $1 million pay a flat $250 fee. Firms with revenue that clocks in higher than the $1 million threshold pay the flat $250 fee plus an undetermined percentage of revenue.

The new tax could raise between $288 million and $3.1 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Tax Reform. That’s a marked difference from the estimated $6 billion revenue that would have been raised under Measure 97.

The new corporate levy proposal is based on a similar tax in Ohio.

Business leaders do not support the Hass proposal.

Unions and education groups including the Oregon Education Association support the measure. 

“The status quo is the enemy of fairness and progress,” Hass said.

Corporate Tax Transparency 

The House Committee on Revenue is workshopping two corporate transparency bills. The first, HB 2019, would require the Department of Revenue to submit corporate tax returns for the public record. This would also give the state the ability to review the tax credit system, Rep. Barbara Smith Warner points out.

“My primary goal in this has always been greater policy information for us to get that feedback and use it,” she said during the Tuesday hearing.

In Oregon, about 1,000 businesses claim tax credits. The bill as written would require reporting for tax credits at $1,000 or less.

Collecting information about who is using the tax credit system would give a fuller picture about the role credits play in the state system, Smith Warner adds.

Some of the committee members were concerned the bill was designed to shine a spotlight on recipients of the credits.

Responding to this concern, Smith Warner says, “It’s not a ‘gotcha.’ We have a whole bunch of them, are they working?”

The bill remains in committee for further discussion. It’s likely to move to the House next week. 

The other bill, HB 2774, would make the central assessment roll public record and require exempt businesses, such as enterprise zones, rural renewable energy development zones, property owned by a port and gigabit communication services qualified projects, to disclose their property taxes.

The committee is concerned that publishing the tax data, currently structured as revenue lost, would be misleading. The bill remains in committee.

Tiny Homes

The first item on the House’s docket Tuesday was HB 2737 A, a bill that adopts standards for tiny homes in the state building code. 

Rep. Barnhart summed up the bill before the House approved the measure 42-12.

“Is it perfect? No. Is it better than we have now? Yes,” Barnhart said.

The bill now moves to the Senate.