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Lend Your Voice in Support of the I-5 Bridge Project

The Interstate 5 bridge connecting Oregon and Washington is an immensely important piece of infrastructure in our region. More than $70 million of freight crosses the bridge every day, making it a vital component of our economic health. However, the bridge has reached its lifespan and it does not meet current—let alone future—demand. With federal resources available through recent infrastructure bills passed by Congress, the time to replace the I-5 bridge is now.

The Oregon Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation is considering legislation to fund Oregon’s share of this project, which benefits our entire state, not just Portland. Washington has committed its $1 billion, and Oregon lawmakers need to identify our state’s $1 billion share to leverage those federal investments. That funding proposal, which contains no new taxes or revenue but instead uses the state’s existing bonding capacity, will be in HB 2098, which receives another public hearing April 27.

Legislators on that committee are under intense pressure by groups that either oppose the replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge altogether or favor a new structure that would lack the vehicle capacity to meet the region’s current and future needs.

We encourage OBI members to urge lawmakers to fund an adequate replacement and pass HB 2098. Letters of support can be sent to the Joint Committee on Transportation. They need not be long, and a guide on key points and how to submit them is below.

Key points to include:

  • The current bridge is functionally obsolete and highly vulnerable to earthquake damage.
  • The bridge is not adequate for current transportation needs, much less future needs. Traffic on the bridge suffers from heavy congestion from seven to 10 hours on most weekdays.
  • The bridge is vital to the region’s economy. More than $70 million worth of freight crosses the bridge every day.
  • The bridge lacks adequate pedestrian and bicycle access.
  • The Legislature must approve $1 billion for the project to remain eligible for $3 billion in federal funding for the project.

More information can be found at the IBR Program website here.

Written testimony can be submitted through the Legislature’s website as follows:

  • Click here to go to the website for the committee’s April 27 hearing. Scroll to the bottom and select “Click to Submit Testimony.”
  • You will go to a page specific for submitting testimony for HB 2098. Fill in the few required fields.
  • Finally, follow the directions at the bottom of the page to upload a PDF or to type (or paste) text directly on the site.

Thank you in advance for your letters.


Legislative and Rulemaking Updates

Paid Leave/OFLA: SB 999B, which would make changes to both the Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance (PFMLI) program and the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), passed the Senate Committee on Rules unanimously. We do not expect any further changes to the bill as it moves through the Senate floor and over to the House. We will begin some educational efforts to inform employers about the changes in the bill. Notably, the bill provides some concurrence and definitional alignment between OFLA and PFMLI. However, it doesn’t go far enough. An interim process will begin soon with an eye toward a 2024 bill to truly consolidate the programs.

Retail Crime: SB 340 is the portion of the Organized Retail Crime Task Force’s legislative package that would change Oregon’s criminal code to make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute organized retail crime and bolster criminal penalties to better protect employees and customers at retail establishments. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the bill this Wednesday, April 26. Please consider submitting written testimony in support of this bill by clicking this link. If you need help with talking points or procedural matters, please email Derek Sangston on the OBI team.

Universal Health Plan: SB 1089 passed in the Senate Rules Committee April 20 by a 4-1 vote. This is the new vehicle to establish a Universal Health Care Governing Board (UHCGB) to continue the work ofthe Task Force on Universal Health Care by presenting a comprehensive plan for a single-payer universal health plan (UHP), including a funding plan, by Sept. 15, 2026. In passing the bill, the committee adopted the -1 amendment, which includes a directive to the UHCGB to identify strategies that would allow employers to offer benefits directly while also contributing in some fashion to universal care for Oregonians. As a reminder, the final report presented by the Task Force on Universal Health Care suggested a UHP would cost more than $20 billion per year, which the state would fund through new and increased taxes. About $10 billion would come from an exorbitant employer payroll tax, and about $10 billion would come from increased taxes on individuals. The bill now heads to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means due to the fiscal impact associated with administering the UHCGB’s work ($1.86 million in 2023-25). During the Rules Committee discussion, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, expressed her unequivocal support of the bill. OBI has routinely opposed efforts towards a single-payer system. Katie Koenig’s latest comments in opposition are here.

Budget Discussions: The next revenue forecast is May 17, at which point serious attention will turn to finalizing the budget. The session started with some degree of cooperation and compromise on investments, including the semiconductor and homelessness funding packages. However, we now see increasing levels of disagreement as the real budget-setting draws near. For example, Gov. Kotek last week called on legislators to use more than $700 million from the state’s rainy day fund to meet her requests for additional spending on housing, early literacy and behavioral health programs. While these issues are priorities for many legislators, the state’s top budget writers do not seem (as of now) inclined to tap the rainy day fund at all. Additionally, Gov. Kotek disagrees with the use of $1 billion in state bonding capacity for the I-5 bridge project and would rather that capacity go to housing. The rhetoric around these disagreements will likely increase as the May 17 forecast approaches.

Food Processing: Twin bills that OBI supports received hearings in the Joint Committee on Tax Expenditures last week. HB 2066 and SB 144 would extend the sunset date (to 2032) for Oregon’s five-year property tax exemption for food processing machinery and equipment. While most people outside of food processing are unaware of this tax credit, it is an integral piece of Oregon’s competitive success in a rapidly growing sector of our manufacturing economy. These credits are more important than ever given the increased tax and regulatory burdens facing Oregon businesses. We expect one of these two bills to pass this session. You can read Scott Bruun’s testimony here.

Warehouses and Fulfillment Centers: HB 3568, which would broadly limit the use of quotas and performance metrics in many industries in Oregon, was heard by the House Committee on Rules on April 18. OBI and a coalition of industry partners testified in opposition. Though no subsequent hearing or committee vote is currently scheduled, OBI and the coalition will continue to oppose this bill. Because it is in the House Committee on Rules, it could be scheduled for a vote at any time. If you have any interest in lending your voice to this bill’s opposition, please email Derek.

Estate Tax: As a reminder, of the 12 states that have some form of estate tax, Oregon’s is effectively the harshest. Its $1 million exemption level is the lowest of those 12 states. Even Washington’s is exempted at $2 million with an index for inflation. But the idea of some reform to the estate tax in Oregon is still alive. Last week the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee had another hearing on SB 498, which would exempt natural resource-based family businesses (i.e., farms, woodlots, commercial fishing boats) from Oregon’s estate tax. Amendments were introduced that would allow full exemption for these family operations if the business was held by the family for at least five years following the death of the principal. Scott Bruun testified in support of the bill and the amendments. Whether it is this or another bill, OBI continues to believe that estate tax modifications may be taken up following the May 17 revenue forecast.

R&D Credit Hearing: Thank you to several OBI members who provided live and written testimony in favor of a robust R&D tax credit during last week’s hearing on SB 5 in the Joint Semiconductor Committee. Especially on complicated matters, direct business testimony provides a perspective that is critical for legislators to hear. We remain confident that an R&D tax credit will pass this session, which is notable. However, our job between now and then is to make sure it is the most robust, inclusive and effective credit as possible. Only then will it truly improve Oregon’s competitive position.


Notable News

Renewable Facility Sale: A subsidiary of NEXT Renewable Fuels, an OBI member, has bought a foreclosed biofuels facility in Lakeview, The Oregonian reports. The company plans to repurpose the facility to make renewable natural gas from wood waste. NEXT also seeks to build a renewable diesel facility near Clatskanie.

I-5 Bridge Funding: Gov. Tina Kotek has balked at a proposal to use state-issued bonds to finance Oregon’s $1 billion contribution to the I-5 bridge replacement project, the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports. Kotek expressed concern April 14 that dedicating so much bonding capacity to the bridge would limit the state’s ability to fund other projects.

Natural Gas Bans: A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 17 determined that a Berkeley, Calif., ordinance banning natural gas hookups in new buildings is preempted by federal law, Bloomberg Law reports. The Oregonian reported on April 19 that the panel’s ruling might invalidate a gas ban recently adopted by the Eugene City Council, which used the Berkeley ban as a model.

REI Store Closure: Outdoor retailer REI announced this month that it will close its store in Portland’s Pearl District early next year, Willamette Week reports. REI said crime was a contributing factor in the decision.

Portland Tax Fatigue: The Portland Business Journal has interviewed a number of Portland owners who are considering moving elsewhere as a result of high state and local taxes.


CompSAFE Webinar: Heat and Smoke Rules, One Year In

Oregon’s workplace heat-exposure rules went into effect on June 15, 2022. Companion rules governing exposure to wildfire smoke went into effect weeks later.

Join experts from Oregon Occupational Safety and Health on Thursday, May 18 to learn how the first year under the rules went and hear about potential adjustments. The online webinar will provide a brief refresher on rule requirements, a look back at 2022 and a look ahead to 2023. State experts also will field questions from webinar participants.

The webinar is made possible by OBI’s CompSAFE program, which allows qualifying members to save on workers’ compensation insurance through OBI’s partnership with SAIF, Oregon’s not-for-profit workers’ compensation insurance provider.

The webinar will run from 10-11 a.m. and is open only to OBI members and to invited guests.

OBI members can register here.