A coalition of Oregon House and Senate Republicans announced late last week the introduction of a package of bills to help middle-class and working families called “Keeping Oregon Affordable for Middle Class Families.”

Senator Tim Knopp, R-Bend, is the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 1029 that would reduce income tax rates to 4 percent to the lower quintile tax bracket of workers who make less than $50,000 for a single filer or $100,000 for those filing jointly.

The progressive tax structure currently used will remain for those earning more than the proposed base income rates in the bill.

“Oregon has some of the highest tax rates for low- and middle-income families,” Knopp said. “Those families haven’t recovered equally compared to higher-income earners since the recession. By lowering the tax rate for these families, we’ll give them a needed pay raise while bolstering the economy ahead of a predicted economic recession.”

Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, is the chief sponsor of House Bill 3410, a measure that would create a child tax credit of $1,000 per child up to 18 years old, with that credit being refundable if the family’s income is 150 percent or less of the federal poverty line.

E. Werner Reschke, R-Klamath Falls, is sponsoring HB 3400, which would provide a $1,000 deduction of student loan interest from state income taxes for a single filer with up to $75,000 of income and $2,000 for joint filers with up to $150,000 income.

“The fact is, students are debt servicing through student loans things like high PERS costs and public employee healthcare plans,” Reschke said. “It also takes an Oregon student an average of six years to graduate, further driving debt loads. If we’re not going to do systemic cost reforms, then Oregon students carrying crazy amounts of crushing student loan debts deserve a break.”

With news reports already showing negative impacts of rent increases caused by Senate Bill 608, the statewide rent control bill, Rep. David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford) is proposing House Bill 3402, a “Renters Tax Deduction” similar to the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners.

“SB 608 is already driving rent prices higher as an unintended consequence, Smith said. “The reality is, until the state does something about the supply-side of housing, rent prices will be higher than other states with similar median family incomes. One way we can combat the high price of rent is to let the 40 percent of Oregonians who are renters have a comparable rent deduction off their personal income taxes.”

Oregonians have the lowest net salary in the nation: a $50,000 gross salary netting a worker $37,345 after taxes and a $200,000 salary netting up to $127,720 post-taxation, he said.

“You can’t have some of the highest rent prices while taking home the least amount of money in your paycheck,” Smith said.

The last measure in the package would require voter approval. Sponsored by Rep. Cedric Hayden, HJR 25 would ask voters whether to approve a constitutional "Senior Property Tax Freeze" for homeowners over the age of 67. The measure would lock in property taxes for the primary residence at the rate an Oregon senior citizen was paying on their 67th birthday.

“The crisis on the horizon is how we keep seniors in their homes,” Hayden said. “The most affordable way to ensure seniors age in place is by pausing the rising cost of property tax increases so that their retirement income can appreciate faster than their tax bill.”

“This last tax year saw senior citizens facing property tax bills higher than the legislature just capped rent increases in SB 608,” he continued. “Property tax increases many fixed-income seniors face are actually higher than some of the rent increases landlords were accused of implementing. Our seniors have paid their fair share, and are entitled to age in place without being forced out of their home due to double-digit yearly property tax increases.”

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