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On Feb. 5, the Oregon Legislature will kick off its biennial short session, a five-week whirlwind voters approved in 2010 to improve budgeting consistency and react quickly to emerging crises. In that spirit, lawmakers this year will consider bills that address Oregon housing supply and its addiction crisis. They also will consider several lower-profile bills that would address urgent problems weighing on Oregon’s economic competitiveness. Among these bills are those that would:

Fix Oregon’s pay-equity law: During the 2023 legislative session, employers from the public and private sectors implored lawmakers to remove a significant workforce barrier created by the Oregon Equal Pay Act. The law makes it extremely difficult for employers to offer hiring and retention bonuses, without which many employers have struggled to maintain the workforce they need to function. The Legislature failed to address this problem in 2023, but House Bill 4050 will provide an opportunity to so this year. Read more about the need for this fix here.

Extend industrial site program: While legislators took important steps to improve Oregon’s economic competitiveness in 2023, they failed to extend and fund the state’s Industrial Site Readiness Program. This program helps local governments prepare industrial sites for use by employers. The high cost of preparing land for commercial use is a consistent drag on Oregon’s competitiveness. Read more about the need for this legislation here.

Improve Oregon’s SALT workaround: A 2017 federal law capped itemized deductions for state and local taxes (SALT), amplifying the effect of Oregon’s significant tax burden. The Oregon Legislature created a workaround for pass-through businesses, but it is far less flexible than similar workarounds in nearby states, including California and Arizona. The Legislature failed to increase the Oregon program’s flexibility in 2023 and should do so this year. Read more about the need for this legislation here.

Affirm taxpayer confidentiality: Governments at every level protect taxpayer information zealously. However, a recent decision by the Multnomah County district attorney has placed the confidentiality of many Portland taxpayers under threat. People who live and do business in Portland already contend with high taxes, homelessness, addiction and crime without having to worry about the confidentiality of their tax information, too. The Legislature should affirm the confidentiality of tax information this session. Read more about the need for this legislation here.