Budgets, Bills and Football Thrills



Rep. Michael Dembrow 
NE Portland, Maywood Park & Parkrose

Phone: 503-986-1445

 Email: rep.michaeldembrow@state.or.us 
Website: http://www.repmichaeldembrow.com  

E-Newsletter                              Today's Date 

Friends and Neighbors,

Hope you had a wonderful, restful Thanksgiving holiday.  I know I did.  Family, football, and food (and wineries) made for a lovely time. Congrats to the Ducks on winning their fifth Civil War in a row.  It’s been an exciting football year for Oregon and Oregon State alike, as both teams appear to be headed to quality post-season bowl games.

Things are starting to become busy again on the legislative front.  We just received the December revenue forecast, and you can read all about it below.  Tomorrow (Friday) the Governor will be releasing his proposed budget. (I’ll give you the highlights and some analysis in the next newsletter.)  Legislative drafts are coming back from Legislative Counsel with every passing day (more than 30 for me so far!).  We have our quarterly committee hearings in two weeks (more on that below), and our new committee assignments will be announced by mid-December.

Finally, our House Democratic Caucus recently had its leadership elections, and I was honored to be elected Assistant Majority Leader, in charge of Policy.  I look forward to helping shape our caucus policy priorities in a way that will benefit the greatest number of Oregonians possible.

You’ll find details about many of these developments and others in this newsletter.  As always, please let me know if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or problems that need solving.

Constituent Coffee:  Saturday, December 8th

I won’t be able to hold my usual first-Saturday coffee this week, as I need to be out of town for the House Democrats’ pre-session caucus retreat.  So, this time it will be on the second Saturday, December 8. 

Please join me at Case Study Coffee (5347 Northeast Sandy Boulevard) from 3:00 to 4:30 in the afternoon.  With legislative bill drafts coming back, the recent revenue forecast and the release of the Governor’s proposed budget, we’ll have lots to discuss.  Bring your comments and questions!

December Revenue Forecast – Slow, Steady Growth

The state economist (Mark McMullen) provided his quarterly forecast of Oregon’s anticipated revenues last week.  This is an important one, as it provides the assumptions on which Governor Kitzhaber is basing his recommended budget (to be released this Friday).

In a nutshell, the near-term forecast is a very slight improvement over the forecast in September.  Personal tax revenues are coming in a little higher than anticipated, though that is offset slightly by slow growth in corporate taxes and by some caution due to concerns over the “fiscal cliff” and by the downturn in exports to Asia.  But overall, we’re seeing an increase of $30.4 million during the remainder of this biennium (i.e., from now to June 30), and an increase of $63 million during the next biennium (2013-15).

That’s good news—it means that this time we don’t have to start the next session with immediate cuts to state services.  This will be the first time since I started in the Legislature in 2009 that we won’t have to begin with cuts, and that’s a relief.  However, the projected revenue growth in the next biennium (around 5% per year) won’t be enough to keep up with anticipated needs (cost of living increases, additional students, additional human services clients, additional inmates), let alone backfill some of the budget holes left by the recession.  We’ll still have many tough decisions to make in 2013.

You can check out the presentation here - Forecast Summary - Forecast Release

You can also listen to an audio archive of the presentation by going to oregonlegislature.gov, clicking on Committees, then on Committee Web Pages, then on House Revenue, then on Archived Audio.  If you have any problems, let us know.

Here are some of the interesting facts that came out in the presentation:

  • The recovery will continue to be tepid for the next few months, then should begin to pick up steam in the second half of 2013.
  • Most growth is coming from consumers rather than from manufacturers and the traded sector.  There was a lot of growth in manufacturing and agriculture production earlier, but that is cooling off with the current decline in exports to Asia.
  • The fundamentals of our economy are very sound.  The balance sheets of households and businesses are in very good shape, with individual debt down to the level of the 1990s.  Large businesses have lot of cash on hand, so there is room for a lot of investment.
  • Consumer confidence is back up to where it was before the recession.
  • Layoffs are down to normal levels, but hiring rates are still down.
  • Intel’s expansion in Washington County helps the forecast.
  • We are seeing big growth rates in multi-family housing (i.e. apartments), but single-family housing is coming back as well.
  • There is actually an outside chance that the corporate kicker will kick.  There are some big court cases out there which, if the state prevails, could bring in an extra $100 million, which would trigger the kicker.  Under the terms of the recently-passed Measure 85, the kicker would then go towards K-12 education.
  • Oregon is benefiting from Washington’s recent change to its liquor laws (allowing liquor to be sold in grocery stores). The change has resulted in a spike in prices on the Washington side of the border.  Within HD 45, for example, we’ve seen a 21% increase in liquor sales in Parkrose.  

What’s Happening with the Senior Property Tax Deferral Program?

The revenue committees heard a report from the Department of Revenue with the latest numbers on the SPTD program.  It shows that the program is doing better than was projected, despite temporarily covering those people with reverse mortgages who requested to remain in the program (a temporary fix that we made last February).  This will be the last time that they will be eligible, unless the statute is changed. (I’m currently working with several legislators on a statutory fix.)

One of the problems with the program has been a lack of data regarding who is benefiting and what their particular circumstances are.  So, a survey of individuals qualifying for the program has been developed and it’s out in the field right now.  You can see the survey here. The rate of return has been very good, and I look forward to the analysis and report (being done by specialists at Oregon State University), which should become available in January.

Tax Credits Up for Review

The revenue committees also received reports on three of the twelve tax credits that will sunset this next session and will need to be renewed, modified, or discontinued: the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Political Contribution Tax Credit, and the Farm Worker Housing Tax Credit.  Here is a handout on these credits.  I’ll talk about others in a later newsletter.

“Legislative Days” Coming Up

The week of December 10 (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) will be the Legislature’s quarterly “Legislative Days,” during which all of the committees meet to get status reports on legislation that was enacted in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, and to hear about issues that may produce legislation in February.  This will be the last time that these interim committees (with their “co-chairs” and “co-vice-chairs”) will be meeting.  New committee assignments will be announced mid-December.

To see the schedule for all the committees and task forces, go to oregonlegislature.gov and click on “September Legislative Days Committee Schedule.” The various committee agendas will be available next week on the legislative web site.  Go to the Committees tab and click on “Committee Agendas Online.”  You can watch the hearings live through the internet or listen to them via audio archives after the fact. (There are links on the committee web pages.) Let us know if you need any help with that.

Breakfast with a Room Full of Lifesavers

Just before Thanksgiving, I got to be part of a wonderful example of earning thanks and giving thanks: the annual fundraising breakfast for Donate Life Northwest, which supports organ donors and recipients.  It also educates and motivates people to sign up on the donor registry (the easiest and most common way is through DMV while applying for or renewing a license).

I was motivated to attend the breakfast because of a co-worker of my daughter’s.  Her life was saved more than a dozen years ago because of her father’s donation of a kidney.  She now is in excellent health, and she and my daughter are on the same Dragonboat team!

The keynote speaker was a friend of hers named Jennifer Browning, also a kidney recipient (hers came from her mother).  Jennifer told her incredibly moving story, which began when she was an infant and received pioneering treatment that kept her healthy and athletic for more than twenty years.  Eventually, though, her health declined and she needed a transplant. Thanks to her father’s donation, she acquired a new lease on life—and then some!  She went back to swimming, competing and winning numerous medals at the U.S. and the World Transplant Games. She’s now married and about to give birth.  Talk about the gift of life!  (You can read more about Jennifer here.)

I encourage you to check out Donate Life Northwest’s website -- http://www.donatelifenw.org/ -- which is filled with information about organ transplant, as well as many “Stories of Hope.”  You will be inspired.  

PCC and PSU Agree to Reverse Transfer

I’ve written previously about reverse transfer, one of the elements of Transfer Student Bill of Rights, adopted in 2011.  This new program will allow students who transfer from a community college to a public university without receiving an associate’s degree to subsequently “wrap back” enough of the credits earned at the university needed to earn the associate’s degree.  Colleges and universities are being encouraged to enter into agreements to facilitate reverse transfer, and I’m happy to report that PSU and PCC have just entered into such an agreement.  I was able to be at the formal signing a couple of weeks ago, which marked another small but significant step in the direction of helping students break down bureaucratic hurdles and achieve success.  You can read more about reverse transfer and this particular agreement here.

The Howard Cherry Award for Outstanding Advocate

Each year the Oregon Community College Association recognizes individuals who have made notable contributions to the improvement of Oregon’s community colleges.  The annual Howard Cherry Awards are granted in three areas: Outstanding Administrator, Outstanding Board Member, and Outstanding Advocate.  This year, the association’s 50th, I was honored to be the recipient of the Outstanding Advocate award, along with former state senator Frank Morse.

This was a very special award for me for a number of reasons.  First, of course, is my own long tenure as a CC faculty member, which has taught me so much about the crucial, transformative work that our colleges do every day.  Second, the late Dr. Howard Cherry was the PCC Board Chair back when I first started attending Board meetings nearly thirty years ago, and I have fond memories of his big heart and devotion to students.  Third, the Outstanding Administrator was retiring PCC President Preston Pulliams, who has done such a great job during his years at the college (and I’m proud to say that I was on his hiring committee!).  Fourth, the Outstanding Board Member was Ed Dodson, Chair of the Chemeketa CC Board, with whom I served on the recently completed Student Success Task Force, and whom I respect enormously. 

And finally, sharing the Outstanding Advocate award with Frank Morse was a particular gratifying for me.  Sen. Morse, who represented Albany and Corvallis in the Legislature for several terms, has been my strong ally in the effort to pass tuition equity in this state. (He chief-sponsored the bill on the Senate side.)  Though we come from different parties and different backgrounds, we have worked very well together.  I greatly respect his courage in taking on tough issues and his moderate, reasoned approach to solving problems.  His departure from the Senate is a huge loss for this state. 

This year the OCCA also produced a little chapbook commemorating the fifty years that we’ve had community colleges in Oregon.  You can view it here.

Until next time,



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